If this is Ryan Callahan’s swan song, well, he’s going out swinging.
The captain had two goals and an assist as the Rangers began one final three-games-in-four nights stretch toward the Olympic break with Tuesday night’s complete 5-1 victory over the streaking young Colorado Avalanche at the Garden.
Colorado had won four in a row and 13 of its last 17 games; the Rangers have now won four in a row and 15 of 21.
When the Rangers resume play Feb. 27 there will be just 23 games remaining, and one trade deadline (March 5).
The question that remains, and probably will hang like a cloud over the Rangers for a while, though, is whether Callahan will remain a Ranger.
Asked if he played the way he did because he blocked out the distractions, or if he’s motivated by them, Callahan said, “Maybe a little bit of both. I try to not bring that business to the rink.
“That’s where I want to be, on the ice playing for the Rangers. It’s nights like these that I enjoy.”
Callahan was saluted with “Cally” chants from the crowd.
“You can hear it,” he said. “It’s part of playing in New York. That’s why you love it here … it’s part of the mystique of the Garden. It’s something that I love.”
To be clear, the Rangers have set a goal of having this done before Friday, when a Feb. 7-23 Olympic roster freeze goes into effect, but have not imposed a deadline.
The demands of Callahan and his agent, Steve Bartlett, who want seven years and approximately $45.5 million are the issue, obviously.
In order to get maximum return for Callahan, the Rangers probably need to find a trade partner willing to pay him. As a rental, theoretically, Callahan won’t fetch nearly the assets that he might get from a team that plans on having him around for seven more years.
The Rangers are going to speak with Bartlett this week.
The Rangers were all over Colorado, but were in a scoreless tie until Callahan stole the puck then finished a 2-on-1 from Carl Hagelin late in the first. With 2:25 left in the period, Brad Richards picked Matt Duchene’s pocket and set up Callahan’s second goal, 11th of the season.
Colorado cut it to one on a power play, Gabriel Landeskog beating Henrik Lundqvist uncontested in the second but just 53 seconds later, Anton Stralman scored his first in 60 games to regain the two-goal lead. Then the Rangers killed off a long Avalanche 5-on-3, Lundqvist making two remarkable saves.
Semyon Varlamov robbed Callahan of a hat trick twice in the third. Derick Brassard then made it 4-1, his shot banking off a skate in front, and Callahan set up Brad Richards late.
“He’s just taken care of business,” Ryan McDonagh said of Callahan. “He’s doing the things we’ve grown accustomed to. You see him tonight with the hitting and finishing checks, creating offense, penalty killing. You name it, he’s doing it.”