TAMPA, Fla. — Ryan Callahan downplayed stealing the spotlight in Martin St. Louis’ homecoming.
Callahan scored twice against his former team for the second time in 10 days, and Tampa Bay beat former Lightning captain St. Louis and the New York Rangers 4-3 on Nov. 26.
“It’s about the two points,” Callahan said.
St. Louis played in Tampa for the first time since requesting a trade and being dealt to the Rangers for Callahan last March in a rare swap of captains. A video tribute in the first period that started with boos from the fans turned into mostly cheers by the conclusion.
“It was expected, but I understand,” St. Louis said of the boos. “They care. They’re good fans. I was very flattered by the ovation, and I wanted to give them the proper thank you.”
Some fans booed each time St. Louis touched the puck. A key member of Tampa Bay’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship team, St. Louis left the bench after the video and skated in a small circle to salute the sellout crowd of 19,204.
“You definitely knew he had the puck,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Tampa Bay went ahead 3-2 when Steven Stamkos skated behind the net and got his second assist of the night setting up Callahan, who beat Henrik Lundqvist from in close at 10:17 of the second.
“It was cool to come out and play,” Stamkos said. “It was as close as you’re going to get to a playoff atmosphere during the regular season.”
Callahan, who had an assist of his own, also notched two goals in Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win in New York last week.
Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov had the other Tampa Bay goals, and Ben Bishop improved to 7-0-0 against the Rangers.
New York got goals from Mats Zuccarello, Dan Boyle and Rick Nash. St. Louis, who did not have a point, was minus-5 in the two games against the Lightning.
“In my estimation, they’re probably one of the best teams in the NHL,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were ready for this game. Our guys knew what to expect. They made a couple more plays defensively and offensively than we did, and at the end of the night that was the difference.”
Stamkos opened the scoring at 5:25 of the first. The goal ended the Rangers’ scoreless streak at 128 minutes, 16 seconds. They had shutout wins over Philadelphia and Montreal following the Nov. 17 loss to Tampa Bay.
After Zuccarello scored from the slot 9 minutes in, Boyle put the Rangers up 2-1 with a power-play goal 2:04 later.
With Nash serving a double minor, Callahan pulled the Lightning even at 2 with 2:26 left in the first. Shortly after St. Louis failed to score on an in-close chance, Kucherov made it 4-2 at 9:38 of the third.
Nash cut the Rangers’ deficit to 4-3 with 7:11 left.