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Back from Olympics, Callahan nets two to lead Rangers

New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a

New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a save as Artem Anisimov (42) looks on along with Ottawa Senators' Chris Kelly (22). (March 2, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

OTTAWA - Chris Drury predicted that Ryan Callahan would be inspired by his Olympic experience with Team USA.

It's highly doubtful, however, that he realized how quickly the transition would occur.

In the Rangers' first game after the two-week break, the right wing stepped into the injured Marian Gaborik's slot on the first line and scored twice in a four-goal second period last night as the Blueshirts began their push for a playoff berth with a 4-1 defeat of the Senators.

Gaborik, who suffered a gash in his right thigh in a practice collision with Henrik Lundqvist, suffered another lower-body injury in Slovakia's game against Canada on Friday and is sidelined.

"I don't think I'm at the point where I can go out and help the team," said Gaborik, who has 35 goals and 34 assists and was hobbled in the bronze-medal game against Finland on Saturday. "I cannot really push off."

Gaborik, who didn't skate Tuesday, added: "It's day to day. It's frustrating, but I just have to stay positive. I believe it's going to feel better quickly."

It was a potentially ominous sign for the Rangers, who have a formidable slate of games this week against the Penguins, Capitals and Sabres. They placed two forwards, Aaron Voros and Enver Lisin, on waivers to create cap room for a trade before today's 3 p.m. deadline.

But Callahan, who played mostly on the penalty-kill in Vancouver, began a medal-worthy performance at the opening of the second period. The Rangers were down 1-0 early on Milan Michalek's conversion of a three-on-two cross-ice feed from Jason Spezza at 3:51 on the initial shot of the game faced by Lundqvist.

The Rangers tied it when Callahan blew past defenseman Matt Carkner down the left side and ripped a shot past Brian Elliott 22 seconds into the second period. He added his second at 16:56 in the midst of a three-goal explosion on four shots in 2:02. This time, he spun and chipped a bad-angle backhander of Sean Avery's shot past Elliot for his 17th goal.

Sandwiched between the goals was Brandon Dubinsky's wrister from the left circle. Avery made it 4-1, tipping in Lisin's backhander.

Callahan has 25 points in the last 33 games and the Rangers are 15-5-2 when he registers a point.

Both teams looked rusty initially. Before the sudden three-goal burst, the Rangers' offense had shriveled, with Callahan's shot the only one in the first 10 minutes of the middle period.

Without Gaborik, who has 13 power-play goals, and injured defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who has 14 power-play assists, the Rangers will need even- strength goals and all four were just that. Del Zotto, who suffered a cut that required 50 stitches against the Penguins on Feb. 12, is healing. But the 19-year-old's conditioning is an issue and he was not quite ready to return. But he may be back before Gaborik.

With the win, the Rangers, who have 19 games remaining, moved to 29-27-7 and are on the Eastern Conference bubble for a playoff spot.

"We're in the hunt,'' said coach John Tortorella, an assistant coach on the U.S. team, who hopes the Rangers can put together a similar effort down the stretch.

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