The Penguins had won eight straight coming into Sunday night’s home game against the Blackhawks honored their 2009 Stanley Cup Championship team.
Chris Kunitz was a member of that Penguins team, and was part of the pregame ceremony. As a nod to his part in Pens history, Jeremy Colliton started Kunitz with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.
Sure, why not.
After all, Chicago had won nine straight against Pittsburgh.
Things didn’t start well for the Hawks in spite of the potentially emotional move by Colliton. The Penguins had a 2-0 lead 4:33 into the game and Chicago was feeling an awful hangover coming on after the Bears’ stunning loss and a brutal start by the Hawks.
But, once again, these Hawks didn’t go away.
Alex DeBrincat took a nice pass from Patrick Kane and scored his 19th of the year on the power play to cut the lead in half.
Late in the first Chicago successfully killed off an extended period of 5-on-3 and escaped two penalties without any additional damage.
Pittsburgh out-shot Chicago 12-7 in the first period but the Hawks trailed by only one heading into the second period.
At 6:46 into the second period, Kunitz finally scored a goal as a member of the Blackhawks.
Kunitz first of the year tied the game at two.
Derick Brassard took the lead back three minutes later for the Penguins, but the Hawks didn’t disappear again.
With three minutes left in the second and just as a power play was expiring, Duncan Keith followed Kunitz’s lead and scored his first of the year to tie the game at three.
The Hawks were out-shot 16-14 in the second but went to the room tied at three. Cam Ward was playing very well between the pipes and the Blackhawks actually had a little momentum heading into the third.
And 1:48 into the third, Kane hooked up with Dylan Strome to give Chicago their first lead of the night.
Strome’s tenth of the year came off Kane’s third assist of the night.
Jonathan Toews scored into the empty net with 26 seconds left in regulation to close the books on a sound Blackhawks road victory.
So did Kunitz really lead the Blackhawks to victory? Not really. He skated 8:20 and picked up five hits with his first goal of the year.
Kane skated 20:43 with three assists. Toews added an assist to his empty net goal and won 17 of 28 faceoffs, including a big one late in regulation against Sidney Crosby.
Four Blackhawks defensemen were credited with a point in the game. Erik Gustafsson and Carl Dahlstrom once again were the top two ice time recipients in the game. And Connor Murphy led the Hawks with six hits in 19:49.
Ward made 31 saves to earn the win.