Updated at: 02/28/2013 10:08 PM
By IRA PODELL
(AP) NEW YORK - Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan scored in a one-sided first period, and the suddenly healthy New York Rangers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
Defenseman Marc Staal added just the eighth power-play goal of the season in the second period for New York, which ended an 0-3-1 skid in the second game of a four-game homestand and completed a three-game, season-series sweep of the Lightning.
The Rangers were bolstered by the return of top forward Rick Nash, who missed four games, and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto. New York moved one point ahead of Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Nash, who assisted on Staal’s goal, finished the scoring with 1:33 remaining off a feed from Brad Richards on a rush for his fourth goal. McDonagh had two assists.
New York held a 20-3 shots advantage after the first period, 35-11 through two, and 42-25 overall. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 24 shots.
Lightning counterpart Mathieu Garon made 38 saves, and Martin St. Louis scored Tampa Bay’s lone goal in the first period. Steven Stamkos had an assist to stretch his point streak to eight, but his NHL-best goal-scoring run ended at six.
Tampa Bay, which fell out of a tie for the Southeast Division lead, lost for the fourth time in five games.
The Rangers carried a 2-1 lead into the second, but had to be shaking their heads they weren’t ahead by more following their most dominant period this season.
New York stormed to an early two-goal lead that was cut in half, despite the Rangers tying a season high with 20 shots in the first and allowing a season-low three.
Hagelin started the scoring 7:23 in after he made a slick move to get free from defenseman Keith Aulie. McDonagh sent a pass from the neutral zone to Hagelin at the left point. Hagelin shifted as Aulie slid in front of him and crashed into the side boards. That gave Hagelin open space to glide into the circle, and he fired a slap shot that beat Garon.
Hagelin thrust his arms in the air to celebrate his seventh goal.
The Rangers struck again 1:17 later when Stepan netted his fourth. New York dug the puck out of the corner, and passes by defenseman Dan Girardi and captain Ryan Callahan set up Stepan in front for a quick, hard shot that he seemed to know was heading in when he let it go.
Tampa Bay got within 2-1 with 3:51 left on just its second shot. The Lightning, who entered as the highest-scoring team in the NHL with 70 goals, added to their total when St. Louis got behind Nash for a perfect redirection in the slot off a drive by defenseman Eric Brewer.
Stamkos has seven goals and seven assists in his scoring streak _ his second eight-game point run of the season. His best shot at a goal came midway through the third when he was stopped on a one-timer, during a 2-on-1, by Lundqvist.
NOTES: Stamkos has points in 17 of 20 games. ... The Rangers also had 20 shots in the first period against Washington on Feb. 17. Their previous low for shots allowed in a period this season was four, done twice. ... The first-period shot totals were also the most allowed by the Lightning this season and the fewest they have recorded. ... Lightning C Cory Conacher had a six-game point streak snapped, the longest run by an NHL rookie this season. ... Tampa Bay, 3-6 on the road, began a four-game trip.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)