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Callahan, Lundqvist provided intangibles in opener

by Dave Lozo /

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Marian Gaborik is the flashy goal-scoring machine, an essential part of any team looking to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Brad Richards is the high-priced free agent signed to add stability and championship experience to a young squad.

But ask anyone around the New York Rangers about captain Ryan Callahan and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and the two words most often associated with them are "heart" and "backbone," respectively.


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The three-goal barrage bridging the second and third periods that vaulted the Rangers to a 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series made the difference, but it wouldn't have been possible without the early work of Callahan and Lundqvist during the game's first 30 minutes.

"The guy has been our leader all year long," forward Brandon Dubinsky said of Callahan. "Sometimes you just expect it. That's just the type of guy that he is. He goes out and prides himself on making sure he's a difference-maker each and every night. The rest of us kind of follow suit. He really set the tone for us. That's going to be important for him to do throughout this whole playoff."

The difference during an evenly-played first period was Callahan's rebound goal that put the Rangers ahead 1-0, but he didn't stop there. Callahan delivered a big hit on Senators defenseman and ex-teammate Matt Gilroy before colliding with Jesse Winchester near center ice to whip the sell-out crowd at Madison Square Garden into a frenzy.

Callahan finished the game with seven hits, but four came during the first period.

"When you're caught up in a game, you don't realize sometimes and we're so used to him doing that, you don't see it as much," Richards said. "But when the crowd's into it, it definitely energizes everybody. If it takes Cally delivering a big hit, and the crowd gets into it, especially in the playoffs, you definitely feel better."

Despite Callahan's heroics, the Senators grabbed the momentum in the first half of the second period. That's when Lundqvist, who made 30 saves in all, was at his best.

The Senators fired nine pucks on Lundqvist during the period's first nine minutes, all of which were turned aside. His two best saves were on Jason Spezza, who slipped behind the defense for a mini-breakaway, and Jim O'Brien, who danced around defenseman Michael Del Zotto before being denied.

"I thought Hank was really good when they surged on us and they didn't get anything," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Then we found ourselves and had the puck a little bit more, and we ended up getting something. I thought that was a key part of the game."

"There's going to be surges throughout the game, throughout a series," Callahan said. "I think the team that wins is the team that handles them the best. Hank made some big saves during that and gives us a chance to make it 2-0."

Callahan was especially happy after missing last year's playoffs due to a broken foot.

"It was tough last year, not being able to be with the team during the playoffs after battling with them," Callahan said. "We just made it into the playoffs and then I had to sit out and watch. It's good to get that first win under my belt. It's been two years since I played a playoff game, so it's nice to get that one out of the way."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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