Lightning coach Jon Cooper is confident Ryan Callahan will score against the Rangers in Game 5.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper essentially guaranteed Sunday morning at the Garden that former Ranger captain Ryan Callahan will score his first goal of the series in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, throwing down the gauntlet with the series resuming at the Garden tied at two games apiece.
“You know I’m glad you brought the question up,” Cooper said after describing Callahan’s attributes as a player, “because probably tonight’s the night he’s gonna score. Because he does that on big stages, and he’s probably gonna do that in the building where he grew up as a hockey player.”
Too bad Henrik Lundqvist already had done his morning interview, so there was no way to get the King’s response in words. He’ll have to answer on the ice.
Callahan’s response to his coach’s confidence? “That’s good. I’ll take it,” he said.
Callahan hasn’t quite been himself coming off an appendectomy on May 11. He has no goals and just three assists in 16 games in this postseason. But he also has a recent history of relishing the opportunity to stick it to his former franchise.
Callahan erupted for four goals and an assist in the first two of Tampa’s three wins over the Rangers from Nov. 17 through Dec. 1, including two goals in their first meeting at the Garden and two goals in Tampa on Nov. 26 to spoil Martin St. Louis’ first game back at his old home as the Lightning swept the season series, outscoring the Rangers 15-7.
“Being at MSG, I don’t know if that changes it too much right now,” Callahan said. “When I first came in the first, second game in here during the season, that was big. I wanted to get in here and I wanted to contribute and I wanted to – I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.
“Now it’s the conference finals,” he continued. “I don’t need an extra emotion or energy or reason to play well. It should just be trying to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals is reason enough.”
Rangers forward Carl Hagelin, meanwhile, had some interesting third-period tussles in Game 4 with Callahan, his former linemate. Things got nasty, and Hagelin said it was good to see several Lightning players perhaps showing frustration over how the Blueshirts were earning their 5-1 victory.
“You can see they don’t like when there’s too much stuff going on, too many whistles,” Hagelin said at his locker Sunday morning. “They like to play a wide-open game where they can bring the puck back and come with speed. There at the end, the entire third period, we were able to shut them down, get stick on pucks and they had a lot of turnovers. It’s great to see them frustrated.”
Asked how his back-and-forth with Callahan got started, Hagelin said: “Nothing really. He skated into me and then started yapping. I yapped back.
“I think this time of year it doesn’t really matter who’s out there,” Hagelin said of playing against Callahan. “Obviously I played with him for a long time, but I see him as any other player when I’m out there to be honest.”
Mr. Cliché Callahan responded when asked about the chirping: “Yeah, that’s part of it, playoff hockey.”
Opponents haven’t succeeded in making guarantees against the Rangers this postseason.
“We gonna come back and win this series,” Ovechkin said. “We’re gonna play our game and we’re gonna come back and we’re gonna play Montreal or Tampa.”
Ovechkin scored the game-opening goal in Game 7 but ultimately fell to the Blueshirts in overtime, 2-1.
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