New York Rangers coach John Tortorella came up with a winning combination when he juggled his lines before Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
With his team in a goal-scoring slump, Tortorella put Derek Stepan back in the middle of a trio with Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin. The new unit accounted for four of the Rangers' five goals as they continued their dominance of the Flyers with a 5-2 victory that kept them in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Stepan scored a goal and set up three others, including a pair by Nash. Hagelin had an assist, and all three players finished plus-3.
"I consider that our top line," said Tortorella, who earned his 400th victory as an NHL coach. "They've probably been our most consistent players this year."
He also played down his personal milestone, saying with a smile that, "You know what that is? It's just being in this business too damn long. That's all that is."
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 32 shots for New York, which also got goals by Brad Richards and rookie Chris Kreider. The Rangers improved to 11-1-0 in their past 12 games against the Flyers, including 3-1-0 this season and 5-1-0 in their past six visits to Wells Fargo Center.
Stepan set up Rick Nash's first-period goal and a second-period power-play tally by Brad Richards before beating Ilya Bryzgalov to make it 3-0. After the Flyers cut the margin to 3-2 on goals by Wayne Simmonds late in the second period and Jakub Voracek early in the third, Stepan got his third assist of the game on Nash's wraparound goal at 7:42.
At 16-13-3, the Rangers have 35 points, two more than the ninth-place New York Islanders. The Rangers have played one fewer game. The Rangers will visit the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.
The loss, combined with the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres, dropped the Flyers (13-17-2) into 14th place in the East. The Flyers host the Islanders, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals later this week.
"Regardless of how the night went, the season's not over," said Flyers coach Pater Laviolette, who changed up three of his lines but didn't get the same results as Tortorella. The Flyers have scored two or fewer goals in 21 of their 21 games.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who was honored before the opening faceoff for playing his 1,000th NHL game last week, said the Rangers simply wanted the game more.
"We're here to win hockey games and that was horrible," Timonen said. "We have to find better effort across the board. ... The Rangers were hungrier."
Nash opened the scoring at 14:54 of the first period when he took a pass from Stepan after a turnover and beat Bryzgalov with a wrister from the slot for the 300th goal of his career.
"It was big to get that first one," Nash said. "It seemed like we calmed down, played a bit more easy once it went in and kind of stuck to the game plan."
Richards, who has struggled offensively for most of the season, scored his fifth at 3:14 of the second period when he took a feed from Stepan and blasted a slap shot from near the top of the right circle during a power play. It was Richards' first goal in eight games.
Stepan reached double figures in goals at 5:46 when Nash's shot hit him in front of the net and he was able to pick up the loose puck and maneuver around Bryzgalov before tucking the puck into the net.
The Flyers got one back when Simmonds jammed a puck past Lundqvist at 17:53 of the second during their only power play of the game. It became 3-2 at 6:28 of the third when Claude Giroux won an offensive-zone draw back to Bruno Gervais, whose straightaway slapper hit Voracek and deflected past Lundqvist. It was Voracek's sixth goal in 11 career games against the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.
"I think at the end of the second [period], we got put on our heels a little bit," Stepan said. "After that, I think we had a pretty good grasp on how we were playing. The bench was positive the whole time, so we didn't lose too much."
But the Rangers regained control when Nash came out from behind the net and put a wraparound past Bryzgalov's stick 1:14 after Voracek's goal.
"That fourth goal was a relief," Lundqvist said. "It kind of killed momentum for them."
Kreider's first NHL goal since Feb. 5 ended all doubt about the outcome -- and left the Flyers trying to figure out how to right the ship.
"There's nowhere to go except to the rink tomorrow for practice, and to get ready for the next game," Laviolette said. "We need to win hockey games. The objective remains the same. Tonight we didn't give ourselves an opportunity to do that. We need to go back and keep working on it. I'm not sure where else you go with it."
Material from team media was used in this report.