The Rangers had scored only six goals in the previous four games, so what to expect Sunday night at Madison Square Garden against the team tied for the lead in points in the entire NHL?
The unexpected, of course.
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Center Derek Stepan, pointless in 12 games, led a torrent of Rangers scoring with two goals and an assist in a 7-2 rout of the Anaheim Ducks, who drew the ire of coach Bruce Boudreau.
"I think . . . [the team was] embarrassed on national TV," Boudreau said. "We looked more like number 30 than we did number one. But it's over. It's a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking."
You'd have to go back to March 2 to see five goals, let alone a season-high seven, by the Rangers. On Sunday night, the Ducks and Blueshirts totaled five in the first 11:12.
After 20 minutes, the Rangers led 3-2 on goals by Chris Kreider, Stepan and Carl Hagelin, chasing goaltender Frederik Andersen after seven shots. Corey Perry answered with his 30th and 31st goals.
"Feels like a couple pianos off my back," Stepan said. "For 12 or 13 games, I didn't do much with the puck. I was doing a lot of things without the puck that I liked, but it's good to contribute offensively. When it goes, it goes, and when it comes, it comes."
Stepan's first goal was a departure. His slapper from the point through Kreider's screen at 5:43 snapped an 0-for-18 drought on the power play. "As a group, we really haven't been as sharp as how we started the season," Stepan said. "When you play a good team like Anaheim, you raise your level."
In the standings, there is no higher level. The Rangers (46-18-7) have amassed 99 points with 11 games to play, tying the Ducks and Canadiens. They have three games in hand on the Ducks and two on Montreal in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. They also lengthened their Metropolitan Division lead over the Islanders to seven points and have two games in hand.
To be sure, the Ducks' goaltending could have been better. After relieving Andersen in the first period, John Gibson stopped 10 shots in a row, but J.T. Miller wired a snap shot past Gibson's glove for a 4-2 lead at 2:38 of the second period.
"That's what happens when you find your rhythm," said Miller, who also scored Saturday against the Hurricanes.
The Rangers regained some assurance with that goal, and through 12:40 of the second period, the Ducks had only one shot on Cam Talbot (36 saves).
Stepan scored his second goal at 16:01 after picking up a stray Ducks pass. With the Rangers leading 5-2, all that was left was to maintain their legs after having triumphed in a 3-2 shootout on Saturday.
Jesper Fast, who also scored in Carolina, swept in a wraparound at 6:12 of the third and Derick Brassard, with one goal in 20 games, completed the scoring on a superb cross-crease pass from Mats Zuccarello.
In all, 11 Rangers had points and five -- Stepan (three), Keith Yandle (three), Miller (two), Kevin Hayes (two) and Zuccarello (two) -- had multi-point nights.
"Even in games where we weren't getting the goals, we try to be strong defensively and use our speed and passing to create opportunities," Ryan McDonagh said. "Tonight the pucks found the net a lot, which was a good sign. Guys should have confidence going forward."