Behind Jussi Jokinen’s hat trick and another excellent goaltending effort from Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 on Tuesday at CONSOL Energy Center – giving Pittsburgh its first 3-0 start to a season for the first time since 1994-95.
Fleury has started all three of those games, making 32 saves against the Hurricanes to extend his winning streak.
The Penguins skated to another fast start, which they've done in each of their first three games. After Jokinen opened the scoring, the Penguins almost had a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission for a third straight game but Pascal Dupuis’ goal was overturned after it was determined he used a kicking motion to put it in.
It didn’t take long for the Penguins to officially get that two-goal lead, as Paul Martin scored just 1:04 into the second period – but the Hurricanes regained momentum and tied it 2-2. However, the Penguins pulled away in the third with Jokinen completing his hat trick and Tanner Glass scoring his first of the season.
Captain Sidney Crosby had two assists tonight after scoring in each of the first two games. Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta also had two assists. The Penguins went 2-for-3 on the man-advantage and killed off both Carolina power plays. Pittsburgh dominated in the faceoff circle, 44-27 (62 percent).
Just 15 seconds into Tuesday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, forward Jussi Jokinen snapped a shot that went off the post.
However, goaltender Cam Ward and Jokinen’s former employer would not be so lucky for the remaining 59:45 minutes of the contest.
Jokinen tallied three times against the Hurricanes to record his second career NHL hat trick to lead the Penguins to a 5-2 victory at CONSOL Energy Center.
“I probably could have had five goals tonight. I hit the post and crossbar, too,” Jokinen noted. “I’m playing with world-class players and they’re giving me the puck. I just need to remember to shoot.”
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“THE KID DOES NOT LOOK 19 YEARS OLD, THAT IS FOR SURE”
Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta recorded his first NHL point in the third period of Tuesday’s game, when he assisted on Finnish countryman Jussi Jokinen’s winning goal.
“It was a pretty easy point for me,” smiled Maatta, who skated on the third pairing with Robert Bortuzzo. “I just gave the puck to the forwards and they did the rest. You don’t really think about it during the game, but now it starts to sink in my mind that it’s pretty big. It’s great. I love it.”
That moment in itself may have been enough for Maatta, but he wasn’t done there. Maatta followed that up with another helper on Jokinen’s third goal, and his two-point effort earned him ‘Second Star’ honors. The teenaged defenseman got to skate out in front of the home crowd and raise his stick to them as they cheered, a feeling a happily overwhelmed Maatta will likely never forget.
“It’s awesome,” said Maatta, who can play a total of nine games in the NHL before he either has to return to junior hockey or use up a season of his contract. “It feels awesome to get that out of the way. You know what, it’s something really big I’ve always dreamed of, putting up points in the NHL. Like, I hadn’t even thought about playing in the NHL.”
He may not have necessarily been thinking about it, but Penguins management, scouts and coaches had been for a long time.
“Olli is a guy that as early as the middle of last season was, whether he knew it or not, making a bid to play in the National Hockey League with his play,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “The scouts, both within our organization and out, said he’s that type of player. We had a good idea of this guy being a really good, solid defenseman who would be able to play at the National Hockey League level. And through training camp, earned more of an opportunity and certainly with the situation with Kris Letang, got an opportunity to start in Game 1. And I don’t think he’s looked back from it.”
“He made a mistake early in Game 1, rebounded right from it and played a solid game. Was even better in Game 2 and today ends up with two assists, could easily had a third assist. Been solid defensively, so the kid does not look 19 years old, that is for sure.”
It was fitting that Maatta got his first two NHL points on goals from Jokinen, as the veteran Finnish winger has been mentoring the young defenseman as he adjusts to this league (read our story on this from Monday here
). "He’s been a big help for me, just getting used to the systems and getting used to kind of the rules inside the locker room and to know what it’s going to be like in the NHL,” Maatta said.
Jokinen was thrilled for Maatta on Tuesday, saying, "I've been trying to help him as much as possible. I kind of tried to look after him the first week, but you know, he doesn't need any help. He's so good, so mature for being a 19-year-old. So he's been fun to watch seeing him play."
GLASS SCORES HIS FIRST
Last season – his first as a Penguin – Tanner Glass didn’t score until the 41st game.
This season, it only took him three games to get his first.
“That’s how funny it goes,” Glass said. “Last year you do the same things, you just don’t get rewarded for it. Last year was frustrating, obviously, at times, but nothing changed on my part. It just goes in at times.”
One of the things the fourth-line forward brings – work ethic – drove the play. And while he isn’t necessarily known for his hands, man, were they silky on that goal.
He finished the sequence with a gorgeous top-shelf backhander, but everything else he did to create the play was pure doggedness. It was on a faceoff play, where he charged to the loose puck behind center Joe Vitale and pushed it to the net. It hit a stick and skidded under Ward’s glove, where Glass recovered it and sailed the shot over the prone goalie.
“Yeah, the puck was just lying there,” Glass said. “We had a faceoff play called, but when you don’t win the draw you just kind of jump and try to get that puck. I was fortunate enough to get a bounce there and had a chance to put it in.”
Glass may have gotten on the scoresheet tonight, but he had already been making an impact everywhere else with his toughness, tenacity, grit and willingness to fight. He’s been forechecking hard, hitting everything in sight (he is tied for the team lead with 12 hits) and has dropped the gloves twice already in his first three games – KO-ing Jay Harrison in tonight's contest a few minutes after he drew a penalty on the defenseman with his hustle.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo