CHICAGO---The Rangers couldn’t hit the brakes on their two-game skid tonight, allowing two goals in a 62-second Blackhawk blitz in the third period that erased a 2-1 lead as the slumping Rangers fell to the Blackhawks 4-3 at United Center.
             It marked the first time all season that the Rangers have lost three consecutive games in regulation. And with the Penguins defeating the Panthers in a shootout, Pittsburgh climbed within four points of slipping Rangers for the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division lead. The Penguins visit Madison Square Garden next Thursday in what should be a doozy.
           “It’s not a crisis,” said captain Ryan Callahan. “It’s the first time all year we lost three straight, and we’ve got 15 games left, so that’s pretty good. It’s a bump in the road. In an 82-game schedule, you’re going to run into situations like this. This is going to test the character in the room and I feel we have the character to rebound.”   
              It looked as if the Rangers would gain at least a point when Brandon Prust netted a rebound of Ryan McDonagh’s shot at 7:11 of the third for a 2-1 edge, but couldn’t fight off a three-goal surge in seven minutes.
             “I thought we took a big step closer to the way we want to play, but it just goes to show you, in the blink of an eye it can get away from you,” said McDonagh. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.”  
               The third period had been a strength of the team, but they have allowed eight goals in the third in the last three games. “We had some breakdowns,” said coach John Tortorella.        
               First, Brian Boyle fell in the right circle and Marian Hossa found Patrick Sharp backdoor to tie the game at 2 at 13:02. Then defenseman Johnny Oduya ripped a slap shot that ticked the shaft of Callahan’s stick and rose up under Lundqvist’s left arm. “We’re in a stretch right now where we’re trying really hard,” said Lundqvist, “but unfortunately, we need some bounces, too.” Patrick Kane added an empty netter, and Brad Richards scored with an extra attacker with 40 seconds left.
            The battle took place in a terrific atmosphere at United Center, from a superbly produced pre-game video to a spine-tingling national anthem from Jim Cornelison, with the 22,049 fans singing heartily.
              Lundqvist stopped Hossa on a breakaway at the 19-second mark, an early psychological boost for the Rangers. In the final minute of the first, John Mitchell helped break the scoreless tie when stole the puck from Patrick Kane and found Artem Anisimov in the lower left circle. Anisimov faked a backhand, and went forehand to tuck the puck past Ray Emery with 37 seconds remaining. Andrew Shaw deflected Oduya’s point shot that bounced through Lundqvist at 14:28 of the second to tie the game at 1.
Notes & Quotes
              Defenseman Michael Del Zotto was scratched for the second time in five games. His right hip was injured when he was pushed into the goalpost by the Sabres’ Patrick Kaleta on Feb. 25 …Brandon Dubinsky missed his second consecutive game with sinus pressure issues that developed after his fight with the Devils’ Ryan Carter on Tuesday. He skated on his own and hopes to play Sunday against the Islanders.

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