NEW YORK (AP) Cam Talbot finally had a night in which he didn’t have to be nearly perfect to help the New York Rangers win.
The Rangers managed only 13 goals in the previous eight games, but went 6-1-1 in that stretch, with Talbot backstopping all but one of the wins.
On Sunday night, Derek Stepan broke out of his long slump with two goals and an assist, and the Rangers rode the offensive outburst and caught the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks atop the NHL standings with a 7-2 rout.
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Talbot allowed only two goals to Corey Perry in the first period when the Rangers netted three. He held off the Ducks the rest of the way.
”They showed in the first how they can score two pretty quickly,” Talbot said. ”You can never think that you’ll be safe against that team with the firepower that they have.
”You can never lose focus.”
Perry had a chance at a third goal in the third period, but Talbot didn’t let that happen.
”It was a big save, but at the time the game was maybe a little out of hand,” Talbot said. ”It’s nice not to give up an opposing team hat trick in our building.”
Stepan, who had no points in his previous 12 games, scored a goal in each of the first two periods as the Rangers coasted in the second of back-to-back games.
”It feels like a couple of pianos came off my back,” Stepan said. ”When the offense comes, we’ve got to make sure we bear down and continue to play hard. When you play a good team like Anaheim, you raise your level.”
New York snapped the Ducks’ four-game winning streak as Anaheim (46-21-7) began a five-game trip.
The Rangers (46-18-7), Ducks, and Montreal Canadiens all have 99 points, but New York has played fewer games than both.
”I think they were embarrassed on national TV,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said of his club. ”You’re playing a team that’s right behind you in the race for being No. 1. We looked more like No. 30, but it’s over.”
New York jumped on starter Frederik Andersen and chased him in favor of John Gibson 10:16 in. Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin also scored in the opening frame, and J.T. Miller and Stepan tallied against Gibson in the second as New York built a 5-2 lead.
Jesper Fast put the Rangers ahead by four at 6:12 of the third, and Derick Brassard made it a season-high seven goals for New York 2:05 later. Keith Yandle tied a career high with three assists – his first helpers in 10 games with the Rangers.
Talbot finished with 36 saves and improved to 15-3-3 since No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist was forced out of the lineup by a neck injury. The Rangers are 17-3-3 in that span, including a 3-2 shootout win at Carolina on Saturday.
Kreider got New York on the board first with his career-best 18th goal, 1:24 in, when he slammed in a loose puck from the crease after a shot by Ryan McDonagh was tipped by Stepan.
The Ducks responded 1:26 later when Perry scored his first to get to the 30-goal plateau for the fifth time in the NHL.
Anaheim gave the struggling New York power play an early chance with 15:02 remaining when Patrick Maroon drove defenseman Dan Girardi into the boards.
Andersen made back-to-back, in-close saves on Kreider and Rick Nash about 50 seconds into the advantage, but fine passing along the blue line set up New York’s second goal. Yandle moved it to his left to Stepan at the point for a shot that got through Kreider’s screen and beat Andersen at 5:43 for his 12th goal.
The Rangers weren’t done yet. Kevin Hayes spun in the right circle and fired a shot that hit Hagelin and got past Andersen for his 16th goal at 10:16.
That ended Andersen’s night after he stopped only four of seven shots. Gibson turned aside all four he faced in the first.
”Obviously, our goaltender was better than their goaltenders,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”Cam made some big saves at the right time, and we caught their goalies a little bit off.”
Perry got the Ducks back within a goal with 8:48 left in the first, driving by McDonagh and flipping a shot past Talbot for his 31st goal.
”We’re going to flush it and move on,” forward Ryan Getzlaf said. ”Tonight was embarrassing, terrible.
”We didn’t have anything.”
NOTES: Seven goals are the most allowed by Anaheim this season. … The Rangers’ power play was 0 for 18 over the previous seven games, 1 for 25 in the last 10, and 3 for 43 in the past 17 before Stepan scored. … New York leading scorer Rick Nash snapped a five-game point drought with an assist on Stepan’s first goal. … New York is 16-4-5 against Western opponents this season and 11-1-1 against the Pacific Division.