NEW YORK – Sunday night between the Rangers and Ducks was a measuring-stick game.
It went far better for the Rangers than it did the Ducks.
Anaheim (46-21-7) came into action tied for the league lead with 99 points. The Rangers (46-18-7) came in just two points behind, with 97.
Just 24 hours after an uneven win against cellar-dwellers Carolina, New York was at its best at Madison Square Garden, scoring a season-high seven goals in a 7-2 shellacking. They moved into a tie for the Presidents’ Trophy race, awarded to the team with the league’s best regular-season record.
“I think [we were] embarrassed on national TV, and you’re playing a team that’s right behind you in the race for being number one,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “We looked more like number 30 than we did number one. But, it’s over. It’s a good old-fashioned, butt-kicking.”
“It’s good that our system, our approach, and our preparation are paying off,” said Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, who was one of 11 players to register a point in the blowout. “That’s where our focus is. You want to get yourself in position to make the playoffs but wherever you fall, whatever happens, ultimately you want to see results based on hard work, preparation, and everyone buying in. That’s what we have going.”
The Rangers haven’t won the Presidents’ Trophy since 1993-’94.
The barrage got started less than 90 seconds into the game when Chris Kreider poked home a loose puck that got behind Frederik Andersen, but Ducks star Corey Perry answered 1:36 later.
So it went in a wild first period that included five goals, 28 shots, and three goaltenders used after Andersen (three goals allowed on seven shots) was pulled 10:16 into the game.
“[You don’t feel comfortable,] not against a team like Anaheim,” said Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot, who made 36 saves. “They showed in the first how they can score two pretty quickly. You can never think that you’ll be safe against that team with the firepower that they have.”
It was a slump-busting evening for a number of the Rangers’ top players. Top-line center Derek Stepan, who had gone without a goal in 14 straight games, scored twice and added an assist. Puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle, who had just one goal in his first nine games with the team, tied his career high with three assists, the eighth time in his career he’s done so.
“Feels like a couple pianos off my back,” said Stepan of finally getting off the schneid. “I just want to contribute offensively. For  games I didn’t do much with the puck. I wanted to contribute offensively. To be able to do it tonight and help out, it’s a good feeling.”
“Keith’s played some good hockey for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault of Yandle, who was acquired from the Coyotes at the trade deadline earlier this month. “Tonight, he gets on the score sheet. He wasn’t playing bad. Like I’ve mentioned many times, it’s about finding ways to win, finding ways to contribute.”
Kreider’s goal snapped an eight-game goal-less streak, and set a new career high for goals in a season with 18.
Rick Nash, who had gone without a point in five straight games, had an assist in 14:45 of solid play.
The Rangers improved to 16-4-5 against the Western Conference this season, and 18-4-2 in their last 24 home games.
“At the end of the day, what’s more important to any player on [our] team is the win,” Vigneault said. “That’s what we’re all in this for. If some nights, or some games, it’s a little tougher for an offensive player to get on the score sheet, they have to find other ways to chip in and help out [the] team win. That’s what our group is doing right now.”
The Rangers scored seven goals against the Ducks for the first time in franchise history. They swept the season series for the third time since Anaheim entered the NHL in 1993-’94.
The Rangers had their first seven-goal game at Madison Square Garden since blanking the Flyers on Mar. 6, 2011.
Since starting their season 7-7-4, the Rangers are 39-11-3.