In a storybook world, Martin St. Louis would have scored the game-winner in his Rangers debut at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.
It was a destination that the 38-year-old had targeted after 13 years in Tampa Bay, where he had been a six-time All-Star, won a Stanley Cup and led the NHL is scoring for the second time last season. Instead, the Rangers fell in overtime, 3-2, to the Maple Leafs, and St. Louis had just three shots in 20:11.
"This is Day One for Marty," said friend and former Tampa teammate Brad Richards after St. Louis was acquired for Ryan Callahan, a second-round draft pick this season and a first-round pick in 2015. "I've been through it; it's going to feel a lot different a month from now. It was probably a little surreal out there."
St. Louis, who had played five games out West and flew directly here to pull on a No. 26 jersey, was simply happy to "break the ice" on another chapter in a storied career.
The Rangers trailed 2-0, but Ryan McDonagh and Dom Moore scored shorthanded goals in 1:19 on the same third-period penalty kill to tie the score. Tyler Bozak had the winner with his second goal at 1:51 of overtime.
"I thought tonight was a gutsy comeback," St. Louis said. "It was unfortunate that we didn't get the extra point."
It was just the beginning of a Rangers' run for St. Louis, who spends summers at his home in Connecticut and trains there. He had a falling-out with Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman, discussed it with his family, and requested a trade, specifically to the Rangers.
In a bind, Yzerman honored his request, shipping him to New York and by 7 p.m., St. Louis was skating in former captain Callahan's place on a line with Richards and Carl Hagelin.
On his first shift, St. Louis, who has 29 goals, provided a glimpse of the skill that has produced 939 points in 1,041 NHL games. He got into the slot and fired a one-timer that drew oohs and aahs from the home crowd.
With 19 games left, the Rangers (33-26-4, 70 points) have won once in four games since the Olympic break and will need a jolt to earn a playoff berth.
Rangers president Glen Sather, who engineered the trade, was asked if St. Louis, who has a year remaining on his contract, could continue at the same level. "He certainly looks like it. He's in tremendous shape . . . He's always been the hardest-working guy on every team he's been on. I don't think that's going to change here."
St. Louis is ready for the opportunity in a big market. "Believing in yourself is the greatest thing you can do as a player," he said. "I love challenges, I like to rise to the occasion and be put in that position."
But Richards had a warning for a team that seemed a little shell-shocked by the trade. "We added a great player who's been through it and has pretty much held a team in contention with a lot of injuries down there, on his own," Richards said. "Everybody still has to play hard and not wait for Marty or wait for something to happen. We've all got to take control and try to make a difference."
Notes & quotes:The Rangers also acquired defenseman Raphael Diaz, 28, from the Vancouver Canucks, for a fifth-round draft pick in 2015. Diaz has five goals and 38 assists in 134 NHL games.