NEW YORK -- Either the New York Rangers offered a sign of what's to come by breaking out of their March scoring slump in a big way Sunday night, or they simply used one night to cash in on a reserve of offense that had been bottled up over the past few weeks.
They're certainly hoping the former is true, because if so, the Rangers could be on their way to winning the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since the 1993-94 season, when they last won the Stanley Cup.
The Rangers moved into first place in the NHL with a 7-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks at Madison Square Garden.
New York, Anaheim and the Montreal Canadiens each have 99 points, but the Rangers are first in the League standings because they've played the fewest games (71); they also have the most regulation/overtime wins (ROW) with 42. New York has two games in hand on Montreal and three on Anaheim. It also has two more ROW than Montreal and four more than Anaheim.
"Obviously [we've] got the right type of character in here, not only skill players but guys who come to work every day," said Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle, who had three assists. "It shows a lot, the way this team runs. It's a big win for us."
The seven goals are a season high for the Rangers (46-18-7) and one more than they scored in their previous four games. They had 13 goals in their previous eight games.
The seven goals allowed are also a season high for the Ducks.
"Our guys in the past have proven they can get it done on the scoresheet; it's just lately we've been competing in a lot of tight-checking, one-goal hockey games," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Every game is different. Cam [Talbot] made some big saves at the right time, and we caught their goalies a little bit off tonight."
Talbot made 36 saves, but the story was the offense, both how much and from which players it came.
Center Derek Stepan had two goals and an assist after going the previous 12 games without a point and 14 in a row without a goal.
Stepan said he was guilty of gripping the stick too tightly in recent games. He was not guilty of that Sunday.
"For 12 or 13 games I didn't do much with the puck," Stepan said. "I was doing a lot of things without the puck that I like, but I want to contribute offensively. To be able to do that and help out, it's a good feeling."
Yandle's three assists were his first assists with the Rangers; he had one point, a goal, in his first nine games after being traded to New York from the Arizona Coyotes on March 1.
"It's just getting more and more comfortable, finding out guys' tendencies," Yandle said. "I think over the last week or so it's come together more and more for me."
In addition, left wing Chris Kreider scored his first goal in nine games, left wing Carl Hagelin his second in 14, and center Derick Brassard his first in seven. Right wing Rick Nash had his first point in six games, and defenseman Ryan McDonagh his first in seven.
Eleven of New York's 18 skaters had at least one point, with Stepan, Yandle, Miller, right wing Mats Zuccarello and center Kevin Hayes contributing at least two points. The Rangers' fourth line was their only line that didn't account for a goal.
Even the Rangers' power play connected; it was New York's first power-play goal in eight games. The Rangers were 0-for-18 on the power play in their previous seven games.
"We were playing a really good hockey team, so I don't think you're going [in trying] to score seven goals," Miller said. "We just tried to start in our D zone and not give them much, tried to get some pucks to the net, start shooting more pucks. We did a good job of that."
Meanwhile, Talbot improved to 15-3-3 since replacing Henrik Lundqvist (vascular injury) as the No. 1 goalie on Feb. 4. New York is 17-3-3 in 23 games without Lundqvist, who is expected to get his first full-team workout Tuesday morning prior to a game against the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden.
"When you play a good team like Anaheim, you raise your level," Stepan said. "That's a really good hockey team, and we found a way to play a good 60 minutes."
The Ducks (46-21-7) did not and lost for the first time in five games. They came into the game with the opportunity to become the first team in the NHL to reach 100 points this season.
"Embarrassing, terrible," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "It's a disgusting game. We didn't have anything. We got smoked."
About the only positive for Anaheim from Sunday was that right wing Corey Perry scored his 30th and 31st goals. It's the fifth time in Perry's career that he has scored 30 or more goals in a season; he has done it in each of the past four full seasons.
Perry, though, was robbed on his bid for a hat trick at 12:03 of the third, when Talbot made a glove save on his point-blank shot from the top of the crease.
"We weren't very good from the goaltending on out; I hope it's an anomaly," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I'm embarrassed by it. We gave them an awful lot of easy plays."
Stepan and Miller scored in the second period to extend the Rangers lead to 5-2. Fast scored at 6:12 of the third period, and Brassard made it 7-2 at 8:17.
"We still have a lot to learn," Andersen said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl