If a drubbing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning was the wakeup call the New York Rangers really needed, they have gotten the message loud and clear.
Since a four-goal home loss to the Lightning last Monday, the Rangers have been suddenly stingy and haven't allowed a goal in back-to-back wins. Their latest triumph was a 5-0 rout of the NHL-leading Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night.
"You get a chance to play a team that has been going very good, you want to see how you stack up," said Martin St. Louis, who had a goal and assist. "You know it is a fast team, and we have to be sharp. I thought we were."
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 shots for his fourth shutout, following on the heels of backup Cam Talbot's blanking of Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Lundqvist extended his team record with his 54th career shutout, Dominic Moore scored his first goal, and Derek Stepan added his second in a dominant middle period for the Rangers, who had three days off due to a snow postponement in Buffalo.
"The prior game was also very complete," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We knew coming in that we were playing against — at this time — the top team as far as points. We needed another very strong team effort, and that's what we got from our group."
They will get another shot at the Lightning on Wednesday.
"If we apply ourselves, if we prepare ourselves, we can play against any team in the league," Vigneault said. "We certainly proved that tonight."
Carl Hagelin scored at 1:40 of the third and Rick Nash made it 5-0 with his 14th goal with 4:36 left in the second matchup between the teams since New York won the Eastern Conference finals.
Montreal (16-6-1) had won eight of nine. The Rangers were 1-8-1 against the Canadiens in the previous 10 regular-season games.
"A game like this leaves you scratching your head," Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban said. "We will be fine. We're still a very positive group. We have to generate more. We just didn't play our game."
Dustin Tokarski made 29 saves in the loss. Lundqvist was uncharacteristically aggressive in playing the puck behind and in front of the net. It led to a collision in the third period when former Rangers forward Brandon Prust knocked down the goalie, and then fought defenceman Kevin Klein.
"It felt like he tried to stop, but I'm not going to lie — it hurt a little bit," Lundqvist said. "When I skate out like that, I'm kind of prepared that something my happen. I just went for it.
"The last year or so, (playing the puck) is something that I've really worked on in practice. I've tried to get more involved and really help the 'D' out in stopping pucks and making plays, especially when we're under pressure."
New York carried a 1-0 lead into the second and quickly built on it as Stepan scored 35 seconds in. St. Louis made a pass from the boards to Stepan, who ripped a rising shot past Tokarski.
St. Louis did all the work in pushing the edge to 3-0. The swift forward raced toward defenceman Alexei Emelin, who had his back to him as he tracked the puck in his end. Emelin took a swipe to try to clear it, but missed. St. Louis swooped in, took the puck in on Tokarski and scored his eighth with 4:27 to go in the second.
The well-rested Rangers got off to a good start in the opening minute against the Canadiens, who beat Boston 2-0 on Saturday night behind Carey Price. New York forced Montreal into back-to-back icings, then received the first power play 48 seconds in.
"They deserve a lot of credit," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said of the Rangers. "They played very well. They had a lot of energy compared to us."
Moore broke the scoreless deadlock at 9:44 when he took a feed from Tanner Glass and forced the puck past Tokarski. It was Moore's first goal since New York's 1-0 win in Game 6 against Montreal that sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals.
Tokarski was in goal that night, too, subbing for the injured Price.
NOTES: Moore hadn't scored a regular-season goal since March 26, 27 games earlier. Glass earned his first point of the season, and Jesper Fast picked up his first NHL point. ... The Rangers are 128-124-54-1 against the Canadiens at home but only 65-201-40-3 against their Original Six rivals in Montreal. ... Tokarski has allowed at least three goals in two of his six outings. He entered with a 1.78 goals-against average. ... Chris Kreider had two assists.