NHL Playoffs 2012: Ryan Callahan Sets Stage for Senators vs. Rangers Series

Cat ZambitoContributor IApril 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12:  Ryan Callahan #24 (C) of the New York Rangers celebrates with his teammates after they won 4-2 against the Ottawa Senators in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 12, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Rangers' fearless leader and captain, Ryan Callahan, set the mood for the night (and the series) with a couple of good, clean, hard hits and a goal just prior to the halfway point in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals opener at MSG Thursday night.

This very quickly showed the Ottawa Senators (and the NHL world) that the Rangers are "in it to win it."

Henrik Lundqvist kept his teammates in the game for a stint between the end of the first period and midway through the second, when head coach John Tortorella had the great wherewithal to call a much-needed timeout for his team to swing the pendulum of momentum back in the Blueshirts' direction.

From that point on, the Rangers were able to quickly shift the movement back in their favor and score three more goals to widen their lead to 4-0.

What was so impressive about their sudden burst of offensive power was that the scoring came not only from their top line, but from three of their four lines.

The Senators did find a way to answer back with two goals of their own in the third, but the Rangers were able to hold them off from narrowing in on the kill.

In the postgame interviews, reporters were repeatedly asking the players and the coach if they were at all concerned with Ottawa's sudden turnaround in the third, but they all kept steady and recognized that games aren't going to be perfect. They now know what they need to improve upon, because the Senators are known for being a strong offensive team.

Unlike the Pittsburgh Penguins' demise in their series opener Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers didn't fold to the Senators after a hefty lead and should be proud of the tone they set for the series and the outcome of the game overall.

Brandon Dubinsky played a strong game for the Rangers as well (even though he didn't score any goals), and Artem Anisimov put himself back on the radar with two assists in the game.

The Rangers were also amazing on the penalty kill, denying the Senators in all three of their power play chances (which is no small feat, considering how well the Sens perform on the power play).

I think the Blueshirts can expect a hungrier and more focused Ottawa team to emerge Saturday night for Game 2 in the series, but all systems point at them being ready for the challenge.

One thing is for certain—If last night is any indication, it is going to be a really good series!