WASHINGTON — Much has been made about the impact on the Lightning of a healthy C Steven Stamkos, who missed most of last season after knee surgery.
But don't forget about RW Ryan Callahan, 32, who is looking like his old self after hip problems plagued him the past year. Callahan might have had his best game of the season in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win over the Blackhawks. Callahan had two assists and five hits, his line with Chris Kunitz and Cedric Paquette fueling Tampa Bay's rally from a two-goal deficit. Callahan assisted on Kunitz's tying goal early in the third.
"I thought 'Cally' was the best player on the ice for both teams," Stamkos said. "He led the way, and it inspired the rest of this group."
Callahan was limited to 18 games last season when his right hip, surgically repaired in June 2016, continued to bother him. A followup procedure in February fixed the issue, Callahan believes. And it has shown this season. Callahan is back to his physical, tenacious style. Though Callahan's offense hasn't been quite there (five points in 20 games), he remains a presence on the penalty kill and a force on the forecheck.
"My body feels great, no limitations or anything like that," Callahan said. "It's good to be able to go out there and play my game and throw my body around and not be hesitating."
Callahan's line often drew a tough assignment Wednesday against C Jonathan Toews' line and will likely see some of Capitals' Alex Ovechkin on Friday and the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on Saturday.
Did it again
When wing Ondrej Palat said G Andrei Vasilevskiy was the team's best player Wednesday, it sounded like a broken record. Most nights, Vasilevskiy has been the Lightning's MVP. But Wednesday's game will certainly go on Vasilevskiy's highlight reel. There was the how-did-he-do-that sprawling third-period skate save on Richard Panik, a former Lightning wing, who appeared to celebrate after his shot as if he had scored.
But Vasilevskiy saved his best for last: his pad stop on an overtime breakaway by Patrick Kane, who was looking for a hat trick.
Most opponents say Vasilevskiy is better than they thought. Just ask Kane.
"We talked about if you're going to make a move on him, he's got such long legs," Kane said. "You're going to have to get (the puck) up. I made the move I wanted, maybe got a little too close, and he makes a nice save with his leg there."
Wednesday marked just the fourth time this season that RW Nikita Kucherov was held off the score sheet. But Kucherov played a key role in the winning OT goal by Brayden Point. Steven Stamkos pointed out how Kucherov drew two defenders along the side wall, freeing up space for him in the slot. Stamkos made a fake-shot pass to Point for a tap-in goal.
"(Kucherov) made that play," Stamkos said.
• For Lightning fans confused that they had to watch the Blackhawks' broadcast team — play-by-play announcer Pat Foley and color analyst Ed Olczyk — on the NBCSN broadcast Wednesday, it was due to technical difficulties at NBCSN.
• Chicago wing John Hayden received a $2,486.56 fine for his high stick on Lightning RW J.T. Brown on Wednesday. It was the highest fine allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. Hayden also drew a four-minute penalty.
• Friday will be a true test for Tampa Bay (16-3-2). Its last road win in Washington was April 13, 2014. Tampa Bay is 1-6-2 in its past nine games here.
Quote to note
“The more and more you watch and see what he does, the word 'elite' is definitely beside his name."
Captain Steven Stamkos, on G Andrei Vasilevskiy