Callahan lost his spot in the normal lineup after the All-Star break.
Ryan Callahan’s momentum sent him into the sheets on his back. He tossed out his hands and shouted.
That goal felt good.
Callahan returned from the All-Star break toward the finish of January prepared to play. At that point the 33-year-old veteran of 745 career game was told he was out of the Lightning lineup. He had been in a revolution of three forwards on the fourth line, however at this point he was No. 13 out of a lineup for 12.
Callahan considered it a gut punch. He said he’d just have to make sure he was ready the next time he got in the lineup. And the fourth-line wing did exactly that. He capitalized on the chance with a goal in his return to the lineup Sunday in a 5-2 win over the Panthers at BB&T Center.
“It’s always good to get an opportunity to get back in,” Callahan said. “You want to contribute, so seeing that one go in is always good.”
It looked great, as well. Near the end of the second period, Callahan beat Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad in a foot race for the puck after the Lightning’s Mathieu Joseph had jabbed it far from Florida forward Vincent Trocheck. With Trocheck closing in behind him, Callahan switched among forehand and strike six times. He at that point flipped the puck over goalie James Reimer on the strike for a 3-1 lead.
The goal wound up the winner for the Lightning (41-11-4).
It wasn’t only Callahan’s first goal since Jan. 10. It was additionally his first since Callahan was removed from the regular lineup rotation.
“You have two options in that situation,” he said. “You can get the poor-me’s and sulk, or you go in, work, wait for the next opportunity and make sure when that opportunity comes, you’re ready. I just tried to take the approach of working every day.”
An upper-body injury to Ondrej Palat (everyday) allowed Callahan to come back to the lineup.
Callahan has played in just two of the seven games since the All-Star break (he played in the Feb. 2 win over the Rangers when Brayden Point was hurt). It is anything but a basic as this, yet the Lightning is 17-2-1 in the previous 20 games in which Callahan has played. Tampa Bay is 6-4 in the 10 games without him in that extend.
“It’s not fun (for Callahan), let’s just put it that way,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “He wants to be out there battling with the guys. He’s an ultimate professional where he’s going to work his (butt) off when he’s not in the lineup. Obviously, we love what he brings when he is in the lineup. He’s been playing great.”
Notwithstanding the goal, Callahan made a season-high seven hits Sunday. He additionally has three goals and three aids his previous eight game. He has been beneficial.
Indeed, even out of the lineup, Callahan has maintained up his quality as a leader in the dressing room.
“That’s the word, he has a presence,” coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s so well-respected in our room. Everyone respects him.”
In spite of the extraordinary game from Callahan, it doesn’t really change anything. He played in view of injury. Cooper has previously said Callahan will play again but without any specificity of when. He also has said that young players such as Joseph and Adam Erne need an opportunity to prove themselves.
So now, Callahan is back playing the waiting game.
“I felt good (Sunday),” he said, “and if I get another opportunity in the next game, I need to do it again.”