PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jussi Jokinen enjoyed his four-plus seasons in Carolina and understood when the rebuilding Hurricanes sent him to Pittsburgh last spring as part of a salary dump.
Imagine the damage he might have done on Tuesday night if he was angry.
Jokinen poured in three goals for his first hat trick in nearly six years and the Penguins remained unbeaten with a 5-2 win.
"There's always extra motivation when you play against your former team," Jokinen said. "I could have had five goals tonight. I hit the post and the crossbar too."
Not quite, but his hat trick was more than enough to push the Penguins to their best start since the 1994-95 team won its first seven games.
"It's so much fun," Jokinen said. "I'm just trying to enjoy every moment and work. I'm working hard in practice and games. Playing with (Evgeni Malkin) helps too, we have great chemistry."
Less than two minutes after Carolina's Nathan Gerbe tied the game at 2-all 3:13 into the third period, Jokinen put Pittsburgh in front to stay when he streaked down the left wing, took a pass from Malkin and threaded a wrist shot over the shoulder of Carolina goaltender Cam Ward.
Ward responded with a flurry of brilliant saves during extended pressure by Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby's line. Any momentum Ward's gymnastics provided didn't last. Seconds after belly flopping to stop Pascal Dupuis on the doorstep, Ward failed to cover a loose puck off a face-off and Tanner Glass pounced on it to make it 4-2. Jokinen then finished off the Hurricanes with his second power-play goal of the night and first hat trick since he scored four for the Dallas Stars on Nov. 16, 2007.
"Pittsburgh's a good hockey team and they're going to keep coming and they pressed and they didn't capitalize there, but they stayed with it and get that goal," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "We would have liked to have used it to our advantage, not theirs, so it kind of backfired unfortunately."
Paul Martin also scored for Pittsburgh, while Crosby picked up his first two assists of the season. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots for the Penguins, who have not trailed through three games. Pittsburgh has outscored opponents 12-3 heading into a two-game road-swing through Florida starting Friday.
"I think for us the biggest thing is our defensive play," Glass said. "We're able to shut teams down and not give them too much."
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