Who da man? Callahan!
Non-recommended social behaviour, mind you (Chris Rutsch photo)
Ryan Callahan is at a peak right now, after extending his franchise-record goal scoring streak last night with a game-winning goal so stunning that it could almost become in Hartford Wolf Pack lore the equivalent of Marek Malik's shootout goal for the Rangers last year.
Trailing the Philadelphia Phantoms 2-0 late in the second period, the Wolf Pack chipped away to come back and tie the game at 2-2. First, Brandon Dubinsky scored a garbage goal at 16:50 of the second, his 5th of the season and second goal in two games. Then, early the third period, Ryan Callahan's shot from the corner hit the crossbar behind goalie Scott Munroe (no relation). The ensuing rebound was blocked from leaving the crease by the Phantoms' Martin Grenier, who was lying prone to the ice, allowing Dane Byers to jam the puck home.
Ryan Callahan then pulled off the kind of game-winning goal that kids imagine themselves scoring while practicing in their driveways . With 30 seconds left in regulation, Callahan stole the puck from David "My Name Is" Printz at the Philadelphia blue line and burst in one-on-one against relief goalie Rejean Beauchemin. Deke-ing to his backhand before pulling the puck to his right, Callahan faked Beauchemin to the ice before tucking the puck into the net.
(Photos: Chris Rutsch)
In a flash, Callahan turned what had looked only one period earlier like a sure defeat into an electrifying 3-2 victory. Already with three times as many goals (18 to 6) as his nearest Wolf Pack teammate and currently sitting on a franchise-high seven-game goal-scoring streak, the previously-unheralded Callahan continues to be the story of the year, including him enjoying his NHL debut last week in front of family and friends near where he grew up in upstate New York.
Dane Byers continues to have a solid season of his own, hitting anything that moves on the ice (ala Ryan Hollweg) while currently ranking fourth on the team with 13 points.
Dave Liffiton vs. Triston Grant (Chris Rutsch photo)
Dave Liffiton had the only fight of the game, and it was a good one, dropping the gloves with Philadelphia's Triston Grant only moments after Brandon Dubinsky's second-period goal went into the net. Liffiton caught Grant with a haymaker while Grant was still moving towards him and then continued to hammer Grant with punch after punch, reverting back to his original non-stop style that he's hardly shown in any of his other fights this season. Grant was able to connect with a few hard punches of his own as the fight was winding down, but most of the damage had already been done.
Jed Ortmeyer returned to the ice for the first time since suffering a pulmonary embolism four months ago and looked even better than his old self, throwing out several thunderous checks as well as showing far more offensive creativity than I ever remember him having.
Thomas Pöck (Chris Rutsch photo)
Thomas Pöck, on the other hand, was miserable in his debut in a Wolf Pack jersey this season. Once again, Bruce Berlet's Courant article appears to have been ghost-written or something, saying "Thomas Pöck played steady and helped on the power play." I saw none of that-- in fact, the power play looked more ineffective and unbalanced than it has all year, and it seemed like none of the Wolf Pack defensemen (including Pöck) were able to keep the puck in the zone the entire night.
Former Ranger Petr Nedved skated in his 8th game for the Phantoms this season (4g, 4a) but didn't do much, other than drawing a number of cat-calls and heckles from a few in the crowd who seemed damn proud of themselves for remembering that Nedved had an NHL career, once.