NEW YORK -- The idea is to be the best team in the NHL in June, but the New York Rangers will certainly take the 7-2 Sunday night win over the Anaheim Ducks, which put them atop the NHL standings as we near the end of March.
The Rangers will also take a game in which they finally scored a few goals, if only so they can avoid answering questions about whether they can keep winning without scoring more.
The Rangers are now even with the Ducks and the Montreal Canadiens, with 99 points, but the Rangers have two games in hand on Montreal and three on Anaheim. The Rangers also extended their Metropolitan Division lead over the New York Islanders to seven points (and the Rangers still have two games in hand on the Isles).
Stepan scores: Derek Stepan had gone 12 games without a point and 14 without a goal before Sunday, when he had two goals and an assist against the Ducks.
Playoff hockey? The Rangers scored a season-high seven goals Sunday. So what happened to all those 2-1 games the Rangers have been playing? They have been winning, but they haven't been scoring. Well, on Sunday, they did both.
Before the breakout, the Rangers had scored just six goals in their past four games (they won three of them). They had scored more than two goals just twice in 10 games this month and hadn't scored as many as five in a game since their 6-5 win over the New York Islanders on Feb. 16 at the Coliseum.
Power restored: After struggling on the power play for weeks and entering Sunday in an 0-for-18 drought, the Rangers looked good on their first opportunity against the Ducks. They had several chances before scoring on Stepan's shot from the point. It was Stepan's first goal since Feb. 19 and his first power-play goal since Jan. 18.
It was also Keith Yandle's first power-play point as a Ranger and first assist as a Ranger. Yandle led the NHL in power-play assists before his March 1 trade to the Rangers, and he was acquired in hopes of getting the Ranger power play going. Yandle also had two even-strength assists Sunday.
Goalie issues: Cam Talbot allowed a bad goal Saturday in Carolina, and he wasn't at his best in the first period Sunday. But the Rangers tightened things up defensively after that, and Talbot came up with some big saves. Meanwhile, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau pulled starter Frederik Andersen after Andersen allowed the first three Ranger goals on just seven shots. Backup John Gibson was a little shaky, too.
What's next: The Rangers host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday for the first time since the Stanley Cup Final this past June. Tuesday is also the day Henrik Lundqvist is supposed to join his teammates for the morning skate. That would be the first time he has skated with the full team since he most recently played Feb. 2.