It's no surprise that the New York Rangers' offense busted out with Marian Gaborik back in the lineup. The fact that the top-line forward had no points in a blowout win over the Philadelphia Flyers could hardly have been predicted.
Ryan Callahan stole the show Sunday with a career-best four goals and five points, and the Rangers finally found some success at home in a dominating 7-0 victory over the sliding Flyers.
Callahan, who had nine previous two-goal games and two four-point outbursts in the NHL, scored twice in the first period when New York built a 2-0 lead, added another in the second when the edge grew to 4-0, and netted his 20th of the season in the third with a goal off his skate.
"When it rains it pours," Callahan said.
The Rangers were back home for the first time since being swept on a three-game homestand in which they were outscored 8-4. The Garden skid began two weeks earlier when the Flyers beat New York for the fourth time in four meetings this season.
Callahan, who added an assist in the third period, has 10 goals and six assists in 16 games since returning from a broken hand on Feb. 1.
"We haven't changed our style at all," he said. "I believed that goals would come. We just didn't get the bounces. We stuck with it."
New York got Gaborik back for the first time in seven games following a concussion. He said he felt good, but that his timing was a bit off. It didn't matter because in addition to Callahan, Mats Zuccarello added two goals, and Artem Anisimov also scored for the Rangers, who snapped a four-game losing streak at home while wearing their road whites at Madison Square Garden for the first time this season.
On Friday, they asked the Flyers to wear their home orange sweaters instead. The change surely paid off for New York, while Philadelphia's woes continued. Before Friday, the Rangers were in a 4-10-1 rut.
"This one was a team effort," said Henrik Lundqvist, who was sharp in making 24 saves for his NHL-leading ninth shutout. "It felt like a playoff game in the first half.
"We need to build, especially from the way we have been playing lately."
The sluggish Flyers (40-19-6) have dropped a season-worst four in a row and are in danger of losing their hold on first place in the Eastern Conference.
"We're at the stage now where it's a test of our character," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "We're facing some adversity and we've got to show our mettle here and understand it's going to take some hard work to get out of it and get everybody on the same page.
"We are still in a good position, but I don't think anybody in this locker room is happy with the way we're playing right now. It's up to us to figure out a way how to come together and get back to playing as a team."
New York, seventh in the East, leads eighth-place Buffalo by two points. The Rangers' tenuous position seems somewhat better with two consecutive wins, including a 4-1 victory at Ottawa on Friday.
The Flyers, however, are heading in the opposite direction following their most lopsided loss since 2006.
Since taking a 2-0 lead through one period of a 5-3 home loss to Buffalo on Saturday, Philadelphia has been outscored 12-1. The Flyers could get a reprieve Tuesday when they host Edmonton, the last-place team in the West.
"It was a beatdown and a half, but it's something that we have to bounce back with a better effort," captain Mike Richards said. "Just stick with the program. Don't try to do too much out there, don't start pointing fingers. Be confident in the group."
Brian Boucher stopped only 14 of 18 shots before being pulled 6:28 into the second period when Callahan finished his hat trick with an unassisted goal. Sergei Bobrovsky, who allowed four goals on 34 shots in Saturday's loss, came on in relief.
Callahan got the Rangers going 51 seconds in with a redirection of a pass from Brandon Dubinsky, and made it 2-0 with 7:02 left in the first with a power-play goal.
Zuccarello pushed the lead to 3-0 at 5:06 of the second, then Callahan chased the shaky Boucher. He struck again 4:20 into the third against Bobrovsky, turning his left skate to steer the puck into the net. Anisimov made it 6-0 with 5:19 left off an assist from Callahan, and Zuccarello netted his second with 1:13 remaining.
NOTES: Jeff Carter, the Flyers' leading goal scorer, sat out with the flu for the second time in three games. ... Zuccarello has scored in consecutive games after going 18 without one. ... The Flyers didn't have any penalties in their previous visit to MSG on Feb. 20, but racked up 22 minutes on eight calls this time. They were 0 for 5 on the power play, making them 3 for 35 in the past 10 games.