Callahan’s first goal of the game came 57 seconds into the second period and started the onslaught. It was the first goal for the Rangers at MSG in 147:02, which covered parts of four games dating to Jan. 6.
Callahan added two assists for his second four-point game of the season.
"He ignited us," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He did a lot of good things. It is not just the goals. The way (Callahan and Dubinsky) played, they did the right things on the wall. Dubi was good in a lot of areas."
"Heck of a game by both of them," said Rangers captain Chris Drury, who capped the scoring with his seventh goal of the season late in the third period. "They had their legs, they were flying, made some great plays without the puck."
Marian Gaborik’s 29th of the season ended a five-game stretch without a goal. He also added two assists.
The offensive explosion was quite the anomaly for the Rangers, who had scored more than 3 goals in a game just twice in their previous 12 games. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist had a relatively relaxed night, making just 18 saves as the beneficiary of the offensive support.
Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta scored in the first period to give the Canadiens (23-23-4, 50 pts, 9th in Eastern Conference) a 2-0 lead that the Rangers (23-19-7, 53 pts, 6th in the East) overcame after 11:04 of the second period.
For the Canadiens, this was their eighth setback in their last nine games against teams that are currently in the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
"I guess the stats don’t lie as far as that goes," Cammalleri said. "I thought we came with emotion and work ethic, but I think that we could’ve channeled it better. I think we could’ve played a more effective, efficient road game, but we were unable to do that."
The contest between the Original Six teams had plenty of snarl. It featured two fights and 64 minutes in penalties. Even Rangers defenseman Wade Redden dropped the gloves, and his first fight since Jan. 3, 2009 earned him a standing ovation from the home crowd that was as rare as the fight itself.
Fans at MSG have taken to booing Redden at every opportunity since he signed a six-year, $38 million contract in 2008. He regularly hears jeers when his name is announced, even if he’s just registered an assist.
"The guys pull for him. He’s been run over here in this city for a while since he’s been here," Tortorella said. "He’s a pretty tough player and a pretty good fighter. I’m glad he stood in there. That’s part of him trying to get involved with our team here. He loses the fight, he wins the fight, it’s good he stood in there."
The physical play clearly helped turn the tide for the Rangers.
"Some guys really stepped up to the plate," Dubinsky said. "That physical play and showing them that we’re not going to back down, scrapping a few times I think really gave our bench a lift and kept the momentum going."
The momentum didn’t really swing until Dubinsky’s shorthanded goal tied the game early in the second period.
The Canadiens, working with a 4-on-3 advantage, won the faceoff in the offensive zone, but the puck slid into no-man’s land between the point men and the forwards. Callahan jumped into the breach and tapped the puck past Marc-Andre Bergeron and Andrei Markov for the shorthanded breakaway.
Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak, under siege for most of the game, made the initial save, but Dubinsky batted the puck out of the air on his backhand to make it a 2-2 game.
"I think the game-changer was the tying goal," Lundqvist said. "They had a 4-on-3 and we get a tying goal. It is a huge momentum changer."
In the early going, it looked like the Rangers were going to deliver another lackluster home performance. They were down 2-0 and booed off the ice after a first period that lacked energy and any semblance of an offensive attack.
Fortunately for the Blueshirts, they rebounded in ferocious fashion, scoring many of their goals by driving the net, something Tortorella has been preaching to his players.
"I can feel the energy we have when we score," Lundqvist said. "We have been talking about it, practicing it; going to the net, create rebounds. That is how you score goals in this League."
Callahan’s first of the game was scored from in tight. Gaborik slid a perfect pass across the top of the Canadiens crease and right onto the stick of Callahan, who redirected it into a wide-open net from the doorstep to draw the Rangers to within a goal less than a minute into the second period.
After Dubinsky’s shorthanded goal, some sloppy play by the Canadiens less than three minutes later led to the Rangers grabbing the lead for good.
After a turnover by Montreal at its blue line, Vinny Prospal carried the puck to the net on a quick 3-on-1 with Gaborik and Dubinsky. He slid the puck to Dubinsky at the far post for the one-timer into the open side past a helpless Halak to make it 3-2.
Callahan, Gaborik and Drury put more than enough icing on the cake with third-period goals. For the most part, Halak was hung out to dry by his defense on just about every goal the Rangers scored.
"We played a strong first period, and then we gave it away," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "We had turnovers and a lot of bad play selection. I think it’s a matter of us playing the type of hockey we are capable of. If we play like we did in the first period for all three periods, we’d be alright."
And if the Rangers continue to show this sort of grit when faced with adversity, they might be OK too.
"The important thing is how you respond and I thought we responded the correct way," Tortorella said. "Sometimes this year, I don’t think we responded in the correct way. Tonight we did."
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL
2 - 1 MTL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NYR
Michael Del Zotto
4 - 2 NYR
5 - 2 NYR
6 - 2 NYR
Holding the stick