When the puck hit the far post then barreled into the back of the net in the waning moments of the second period, the ring echoing through the Canadian Tire Center was a reminder Derek Stepan is the Rangers’ first-line center, and when he gets his game going, that is not a de facto title, but an apt one.

Stepan put together a terrific performance Saturday afternoon, notching a goal and two assists in a 4-1 triumph over the Senators, breaking his personal 13-game goal-less drought in highlight fashion.

“To have balance in your lineup, to have different guys step up in different games to create offense, it’s huge,” said defenseman Marc Staal, who traced Stepan’s big game back to a Reese’s Pieces Blizzard from Dairy Queen the night before. “When we get those guys step up when someone is not having a great night, it makes winning games a whole lot easier.”

It also seems all the Blueshirts (26-21-3) do in front of backup goalie Cam Talbot is win. In his first start since Jan. 4, sitting behind Henrik Lundqvist the previous six games, the 26-year-old first-year player recorded his 10th victory of the season, finishing with 29 saves, 16 of them in the third period.

“We sort of expect that from Cam,” said coach Alain Vigneault, who will go back to Lundqvist for Sunday’s Garden match against the Capitals, the first of a eight-game stretch when the Rangers will play either at home or outside at Yankee Stadium. “Every time we’ve called on him he’s always given us a chance to win, and that’s what he did again.”