CHICAGO — Their six-game winning streak is over, and the collapse was shockingly sudden for the Rangers.
As the Blueshirts’ defense vaporized in front of Henrik Lundqvist, former Ranger Artem Anisimov’s hat trick in the third period helped the Blackhawks end the Rangers’ run with a 6-3 victory on Wednesday.
After playing solid defensively in the first period, the Rangers faltered a little in the second, and when a kneeling Lundqvist allowed Alex DeBrincat’s left-side wrister to squeeze through his pads and roll across the goal line with 52 seconds left for a 1-1 tie, that sparked the Blackhawks, who scored three more in the first 5:14 of the third for a 4-1 lead at United Center.
“It [the first goal] changed our attitude and energy level,” said Ryan McDonagh. “For whatever reason, we weren’t sharp. We couldn’t get a handle on a couple of plays, myself included, and they had the skill to make us pay. It’s unfortunate that we let it snowball. “
The fourth goal caused coach Alain Vigneault to pull Lundqvist, he said, to try and change the momentum. Ondrej Pavelec, who hadn’t played since Oct. 23, came in and Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash scored as the Rangers (9-8-2) tried to rally. But Anisimov tipped a pass over Pavelec at the doorstep for a 5-3 advantage at 16:12 and Jonathan Toews added an empty-netter.
Asked if he was surprised to be yanked, Lundqvist said: “No. Not the way we were playing. It wasn’t fun. Those ten minutes killed us.”
Anisimov knocked a bouncing puck past Lundqvist at 1:07 of the third after Patrick Kane stole the puck from McDonagh, and John Hayden dived headlong to poke in another at 1:53 for a 3-1 lead. Anisimov scored his second on a power play with Mats Zuccarello in the box at 5:14.
“It’s always tough when you let in a goal that late in a period, but we were in a good position. Too many mistakes in front of our net,” said Mika Zibanejad. “We probably could have picked up some [of their] sticks there.”
Vigneault was equally harsh. “We weren’t defending at all,” he said. “In the second, Hank kept us in. he made some saves  and gave us a chance. We didn’t play well enough in the second and third. We didn’t deserve to win.”
Lundqvist was 6-0-0 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .912 save percentage during the win streak. He has played well against the Blackhawks during his career, going 6-2-2 with a 2.19 GAA and .925 save percentage.
The Rangers had scored the first goal for the third straight game. Chris Kreider shrugged off Tommy Wingels’ check behind the cage, saw Zibanejad darting to the crease from the left boards and backhanded a pass to the center, who slammed in his ninth of the season at 9:58.
But that would be all that the Blueshirts, with the third-ranked power play in the NHL, could muster in the first and second periods, despite having six minutes on the power play. They also killed two Blackhawks power plays, with Lundqvist stopping two dangerous slaps shots from Jan Ruuta and Gustav Forsling through traffic on the second.
The Rangers fell to 2-4-0 on the road with a visit to Columbus coming up on Friday.