PITTSBURGH — There’s nothing normal about the Blackhawks-Penguins series, and the weirdness continued Sunday at PPG Paints Arena.
Chris Kunitz, who rarely plays, scored his first goal since April.
Duncan Keith, who rarely scores, ripped his first of the season.
And somehow, despite falling behind early, being outshot and having penalty problems throughout, the Hawks won 5-3 on Sunday for their 10th straight victory over Pittsburgh. It’s their longest active winning streak against any team, which also doesn’t make much sense given how good the Penguins have been the last few years.
“I don’t know, sometimes those things get blown out of proportion,” Keith said. “They’ve got a good team with a lot of great players, and we’ve played good against them — not always, but had some breaks go our way.”
Dylan Strome broke a 3-3 tie early in the third period, scoring off assists from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and the Hawks held off Pittsburgh for 18 minutes, including a power play and empty net time.
The Penguins jumped ahead 2-0 in the first five minutes, but the Hawks quickly evened it on goals by Alex DeBrincat and Kunitz. DeBrincat’s was his 19th of the season.
Kunitz’ goal was perfect. He hadn’t seen the ice for two weeks until coach Jeremy Colliton essentially gifted him a start against his former team.
He did it because the Penguins were celebrating their 2009 Stanley Cup team, and after they honored Kunitz during a timeout, he scored to tie the game 2-2 early in the second period.
“I think just being in a building where you have great memories might give you that special feeling every time you go on the ice,” he said. “I don’t know if it gives you anything extra, but mentally it makes you have that confidence.”
Colliton, who prefers to split up back-to-backs with his goalies, started Cam Ward against Pittsburgh and will go with Collin Delia at home Monday against the Flames.
Ward gave up the two early goals, but settled and finished with 31 saves on 34 shots. He’s allowed three goals or fewer in four of his last five starts.
Delia, meanwhile, has been lights out in limited action. He’s 3-0-1 with a .952 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average.
The Hawks’ turnaround began with a Dec. 12 win against the Penguins at the United Center, and picking up the season sweep pushed their run to 7-3-2.