NEW YORK -- Brad Richards scored twice on the power play, Martin St. Louis had three assists, and the New York Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Benoit Pouliot and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers (44-31-5); Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves.
New York maintained its two-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers, who have a game in hand, defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2.
Patrick Dwyer scored for the Hurricanes (34-34-11); Cam Ward stopped 32 of 36 shots. The loss eliminated Carolina from Stanley Cup Playoff contention.
Richards and St. Louis entered the game having combined for one goal in the past four games. St. Louis had four points in his first 17 games since being traded to the Rangers on March 5. He almost matched that total Tuesday.
"I thought tonight was probably his best game since he's been here," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He was skating, he looked real good tonight. Hopefully it's a sign of something that's going to continue for us."
St. Louis set up Richards' tying goal with Alexander Semin off for hooking. After St. Louis' first pass was blocked, he corralled a bouncing puck near the slot and made a spinning no-look pass that found Richards at the left circle. Richards took a wrist shot that beat Ward inside the left post with 4:16 left in the first period, snapping New York out of an 0-for-9 power-play slump.
"I was trying to get it to him earlier on my forehand," St. Louis said. "I got stuck in the battle and as soon as I got it I knew he was there."
That appeared to settle down the Rangers and sparked a run of four unanswered goals.
"Without a doubt it helped. Anytime you can score quickly, especially on your first power play, you get momentum," Vigneault said. "It backs off the other team a little bit physically."
Pouliot broke the 1-1 tie in the opening minute of the second period. Mats Zuccarello faked a slap shot from the point, freezing Carolina's defense, before feeding Pouliot on left wing. With Ward cheating far out of the net, Pouliot tucked the puck into an open cage to give New York the lead 50 seconds in on his 14th goal.
Zuccarello drew an elbowing penalty on Jeff Skinner with 6:52 remaining in the period, and New York needed 28 seconds on the man advantage for Richards to get his second of the night. Dwyer's stick was broken by a St. Louis slap shot, leaving the penalty kill further shorthanded. From there, the Rangers worked the puck to the point, where Richards fired a shot past Ward's blocker for his 20th of the season at 13:36.
"When the team has no stick, it's just a whole different feeling out there. You can set it up and do what you want," Richards said. "Whoever is in front of the guy without the stick, that's who you're trying to get the shot. That's why they passed it back to me. It gives you so much more lane to shoot at."
Stepan put the game out of reach 4:38 into the third period. St. Louis' initial pass off the rush was blocked, but he collected the loose puck before connecting with Stepan. Standing by the right post, the center simply had to tip the feed past a sprawling Ward for his 17th to give New York a three-goal lead.
Dwyer opened the scoring shortly after Pouliot failed to work the puck up the left boards and out of the Rangers end. Brett Bellemore forced a turnover, pushed the puck deep into the zone and attempted to feed Dwyer in front. The pass went off the side of the net but slid between Kevin Klein's legs directly to the Hurricanes forward, who beat Lundqvist to the blocker side with a quick shot for his eighth of the year 3:22 into the game.
The Hurricanes were overmatched at times, particularly during the third period when they were outshot 15-7.
"We had a really good first period. We did a lot of good things," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "I think the turning point was coming out and getting sored on on the first shift of the second period."
St. Louis' first multipoint game with the Rangers can be something to build on heading toward the postseason.
"You could tell he kind of had some weight off his shoulder as the game went. He was lighter and making plays," Richards said. "When something goes in, especially when nothing's gone in for him on home ice, it just helps. You feel a little bit lighter on your skates. You have the home crowd behind you and you just feel like you're part of it more."