NEW YORK -- It took 10 games, but the Rangers finally put forth their most complete effort of the season.
Ryan Callahan scored twice while Derek Stepan and Artem Ansimov notched their first goals of the season as the Rangers took care of the red-hot San Jose Sharks 5-2 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Christensen and Dan Girardi had two assists as the Rangers stayed strong after squandering a two-goal lead in the second period. After blowing a three-goal lead in third period in a loss to the Ottawa Senators two days ago, the Rangers played far better with the big lead to earn their first home win of the season.
The total team effort resulted in a first for the Rangers in 2011-12 -- they outshot an opponent (31-26).
"We played some good periods of hockey but we weren't able to get a win here because we didn't play a full game," said Rangers goaltender Martin Biron, who made 24 saves to improve to 2-0 this season. "To be able to consistently play through zone after zone, that was the key and we did that for 60 minute and got rewarded."
Rangers coach John Tortorella talked before the game about the struggles of his captain this season. Callahan came into the game with just 3 goals and an assist in nine games, but a three-point night highlighted everything he brings to the table.
The turning point in the game proved to be a delay of game penalty taken by Sharks defenseman Colin White when he played the puck over the glass from inside his zone with 8 minutes left in the second period. The Rangers technically came up empty on the ensuing power play, but Callahan's goal off a sensational pass from Christensen before White could even step back on the ice gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
Anisimov made it 4-2 just 2:42 later off another beautiful pass from Christensen, then Callahan scored a goal that combined the grit and skill that's made him a fan favorite in New York.
Brad Richards whipped a shot from the right-wing boards that squeezed through the blocker arm and body of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi and slithered toward the other side of the open net. With center Andrew Murray in position and draped all over him, Callahan dove to knock the puck home and put the Rangers up 5-2 with 48 seconds left in the second period.
Before Callahan's first goal, the Sharks were taking command of the game. But he stepped up when the Rangers needed him most.
"He played well," Tortorella said. "With each game that goes by, he's getting better and better."
"The biggest thing for us is we learned from our mistakes last game," said Callahan, who was adorning the hat the team is giving out this season to each game's top performer. "Going into the third period, we didn't change what we needed to do and we got the win."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan agreed the goal that came after White's delay of game penalty turned the tide, but said he wasn't sure if it deflected out of play off a stick or hit the glass. He was refreshingly honest about the incident, saying even if that was the case, his team caught a break against the Islanders on Saturday when they were awarded a power play on the same call when replays showed Travis Hamonic's clearing attempt hit the glass before going out of play. The Sharks would win the game on the ensuing power play.
McLellan also said despite that penalty, he didn't like the way his team had its six-game road trip end on a down note after starting it 5-0.
"I didn't like our game from the get-go," McLellan said. "We had too many men on the ice. We had very few forechecks. We turned odd-numbered situations of our own into 2-on-1s and 3-on-1s for them. Our game management was poor. We got spread out on line changes. Things that we do well when we were playing well weren't happening."
The Rangers jumped to an early lead with first-period goals from Ryan McDonagh and Stepan.
With Callahan parked behind the net, McDonagh moved down from the point unchecked. Callahan feathered a pass to McDonagh, who one-timed a shot past Niemi to make it 1-0 at 4:46. Sharks forward Joe Pavelski, who had a goal and an assist, appeared to lose track of McDonagh right before the goal.
Stepan made it 2-0 at 14:53 with a power-play goal off a 2-on-1 rush. Brandon Dubinsky fired a pass across the crease that Stepan tipped past Niemi, who made 26 saves on a night he didn't really receive much support from his teammates.
The Sharks clawed back into the game during the second period, getting goals from Pavelski and Logan Couture to draw even. Pavelski's goal came after defenseman Douglas Murray rung a shot off both posts that came to rest on Pavelski's stick. He tucked it home under Biron for his eighth goal of the season.
Couture fired a one-timer over Biron's catching glove at 11:03, finishing off about a two-minute stretch when the Sharks hemmed the Rangers in their zone and applied constant pressure.
With momentum gathering against the Rangers, they didn't falter.
"The thing I liked most is that everybody contributed," Tortorella said. "Arty scores a goal, Steps scores a goal and Erik Christensen makes a couple of really good plays. We had one really bad shift when we couldn't get guys off and it cost us a goal, but other than that, I thought it was pretty good."
For Sean Avery, it may have been too good.
The Rangers placed Avery on re-entry waivers Monday afternoon. If the 29 other teams in the League decide against claiming him, he would be available for the Rangers when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
But Tortorella didn't make any promises that Avery would crack the lineup if he passes through waivers.
"We make decisions on our lineup every night," Tortorella said. "I like the way a lot of people played tonight. I'm not force-feeding anything. If I look at the tape and think guys have done their job, you stay with your team. I just don't know what the lineup's going to be our next game. We'll see how it all works out."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo