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 and improve to 3-0 on the young season.
“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.”
Jokinen, who last notched a hat trick when he posted four goals against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 16, 2007 as a member of the Dallas Stars, was traded to Pittsburgh from Carolina at last season’s trade deadline on April 3. The Kalajoki, Finland native had a little extra jump against his old squad.
“There is always extra motivation when you play against your former team,” he said. “I have lots of respect for that organization. I was there for four-and-a-half years. I really enjoyed my time there. They take care of the players and families.
“Maybe what happened at the end of last year wasn’t fair, but that happens in hockey. It’s not always fair. I’m pretty happy that I’m now here and in this organization, it’s world class, too. I’m really enjoying playing right now.”
Jokinen, 30, has certainly enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh. Since joining the Penguins last season, Jokinen has 10 goals, 14 points and three power-play goals in 13 games.
Jokinen is a versatile player who can fill almost any role on the team – offensive, defensive, top-6 forward, bottom-6, center, wing, etc. But Jokinen possesses a rare blend of smarts and talent. Those were on display on all three of his goals.
Jokinen kicked a puck from between his skates and right onto the tape of stick before swiping a backhander past Ward. His other two goals were simply sniper shots that blew past Ward.
“The comment after the game in the coaches' room is (Jokinen’s) hockey sense and hockey intelligence is off the charts,” head coach Bylsma said. “His intelligence, smarts, ability to play with good players and read off them showed in a lot of cases today. He was excellent.”
Jokinen thrives when playing with other highly talented players. So it’s not surprising that he’s played so well with fellow European Evgeni Malkin.
Jokinen earned a spot alongside Malkin after the two displayed great chemistry during the preseason – which also featured a Jokinen hat trick against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“That was my goal. That’s where I’m most comfortable, playing top-6, a more offensive role and playing with good players,” Jokinen said. “That was my goal coming into training camp and it’s been working well.
“There’s some good chemistry going with the power play. And playing with ‘Geno’ too, we have great chemistry.”
And Jokinen hopes to keep the success rolling.
“I’m having lots of fun right now. It’s been really good,” he said. “A great start for us, 3-0. We just have to go on the road and do the same thing.”