NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers had plenty of time to come up with a plan to build off a solid victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. They accomplished that Sunday night against the sluggish Montreal Canadiens.
Martin St. Louis was a standout among many strong performers with a goal and an assist, and the Rangers controlled the game from start to finish in a 5-0 victory at Madison Square Garden.
"I think the last two games is probably as good as we've played all year," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who earned his fourth shutout to move level with the Pittsburgh Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury for the NHL lead. "Just really paying attention to all the details in the game, which you need to do to have success. It was great to see."
The Rangers had lost seven of nine games (2-3-4) before defeating the Flyers and then collecting a couple extra days of rest because a major snowstorm in Western New York caused the cancellation of their trip to play Friday against the Buffalo Sabres. They started quickly against the weary Canadiens and did not relent, even creating prime scoring chances late into a game that had long been decided.
Montreal (16-6-1) leads the NHL with 33 points, and the Canadiens had won eight of nine games prior to the loss to the Rangers. They played Saturday night, earning an emotional 2-0 victory against their biggest rivals, the Boston Bruins, and the game in New York was their sixth in nine days.
"I don't think we want to use [being tired] as an excuse," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "If there was anything that I wish we would have done better, it was manage the puck better early in the game. I think if we'd have done that, we would have given ourselves a better chance to win the game."
New York (9-7-4) carried the play during the first period but managed only a one-goal advantage.
St. Louis gave the Rangers some breathing room with a pair of great plays in the middle period, including one in the first minute.
He took a pass from Chris Kreider as the Rangers entered the zone, and skated toward the right circle before backhanding a pass through two Canadiens defenders to Derek Stepan near the top of the left circle. Stepan snapped a shot past goaltender Dustin Tokarski for his second goal of the season and a 2-0 New York lead 35 seconds into the period.
"[The second goal] was important for them," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "It was important for them. We turned it over in the neutral zone. They capitalized on it, and we did not cover well. ... Tonight our transition game was not good and our checking game was not good."
Later in the period St. Louis lifted Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin's stick and stole the puck, giving him a clear path to the net. He scored while moving to his right but lofting a shot into the top-left corner after Tokarski committed to sliding across his crease.
It was St. Louis' eighth goal. After scoring one goal and six points in the first 10 games, St. Louis has seven goals and 11 points in the past 10.
"I think having [Stepan] helps bring some depth down the middle and we're able to make some chemistry here with our lines. It is contagious," said St. Louis, who spent some time at center when Stepan missed the start of the season with a broken leg. "I'm a winger. I've played my whole life on the wing. We were in a situation where we needed help there. Sometimes you're put in a position you're not used to but you try to do it for the better of the team.
"I'm definitely more comfortable on the wing. There is no doubt about it."
Dominic Moore scored the lone goal of the first period. Montreal forward Alex Galchenyuk made an unwise decision, trying to send the puck back through the slot instead of toward the boards as he skated back toward his net. The puck deflected off Rangers forward Tanner Glass and landed near the top of the crease for Moore to punch it past Tokarski at 9:44 for his first goal of the season.
Rookie Anthony Duclair made another fantastic individual play to make it 4-0. A pass from Kevin Hayes was behind Duclair, but he snared it with his right foot and slid it to his stick before finding Carl Hagelin at the far post for a tap-in goal. It was Hagelin's fifth.
Rick Nash scored on a breakaway to complete the scoring. He slipped behind the defense, and although it took Derick Brassard a couple of seconds to realize it, he still got the puck to Nash, who scored his 14th goal, tying him for second in the NHL with Steven Stamkos behind Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin's 15.
All 12 forwards had at least one point for the Rangers. It was the first time since Dec. 17, 1980, against the Winnipeg Jets that all New York forwards had at least a point, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"Obviously they had a big game last night, and you want to take advantage of that," Lundqvist said. "We had a good start to the game. In the second period we had a couple of big plays, that when you are playing back-to-back it's tough to recover from. It was good. ... It was a big win."