The Pittsburgh Penguins collected their third-straight victory to start the season Tuesday night, as they beat the Carolina Hurricanes behind forward Jussi Jokinen’s second career hat-trick.
Pittsburgh has now put up 12 goals in their first three contests, and are averaging four goals-per-game.
Opening the scoring with a dazzling skate-to-stick backhand tally, Jokinen registered the game-winning goal 5:93 into the third-period, and would go on to record the hat-trick with 13:03 left in the contest.
Acquired from Carolina at the trade deadline during the 2012-13 campaign, the 30-year-old Finland native has compiled 14 points (10G, 4A) in 13 games for Pittsburgh, and has all of the sudden become a probable mainstay on the second-line.
Beating out young protege Beau Bennett for the top-six gig following training camp, Jokinen has developed swift chemistry with center Evgeni Malkin, and will be counted on steadily to produce while forward James Neal is out.
Another Finn who made headlines to start the season was prospect defenseman Olli Maatta, who made the team after a positive preseason.
Assisting on two of Jokinen’s three goals, Maatta recorded his first two NHL points in his third career professional contest, and arguably played his best game of the season thus far.
Seemingly looking a bit nervous in his previous two games, the 19-year-old two-way blueliner is playing with Pittsburgh while Norris finalist Kris Letang heals from a lower-body injury. Although Maatta is presumably on an NHL tryout for nine contests, he’s certainly going to make things interesting when Letang does come back.
Despite being so young, Maatta is vastly matured for his age, and the poise he displayed in Tuesday’s contest further boasted his right to remain on the active roster. We’ll find out more on where he stands when Letang returns, but for the meantime he’s showing the organization why he deserves to be there.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury racked up his third victory of the season, stopping 32-of 34 shots he faced, and improving his record to 3-0-0 to start the 2013-14 campaign.
The embattled netminder has had his fair share of harsh criticism in the past year, but because goaltender Tomas Vokoun is sidelined with blood clot issues for the next 3-6 months, Pittsburgh is probably ecstatic that Fleury has gotten off to a fast start.
The 28-year-old Fleury now owns a 1.00 goals-against average and a .963 save percentage on the year.
Defenseman Paul Martin scored his first goal of the season 1:04 minutes into the second-period on a backhand shot, and it was his second point (1G, 1A) of the year.
Taking a favorable bounce off the boards from behind the net, Martin was waiting patiently once it ricocheted, and he potted the goal on a relatively wide-open net.
Dishing out two helpers on the night — one being on Martin’s tally — was none other than captain Sidney Crosby, who now has four points (2G, 2A) in the first three games of the season.
Ranking eighth in the NHL for scoring, Crosby, on cue, is right on track to once again compete for the Art Ross trophy (NHL scoring leader).
Forwards’ Chris Kunitz, Brandon Sutter, Joe Vitale, Malkin, and defenseman Brooks Orpik all registered one assist. And forward Tanner Glass, whose not known for his offense, buried his first goal of the year as well (he had one all of last season).
Pittsburgh will now play their first away game of the season this Friday against the Florida Panthers, and look to push their winning streak to four.
The contest is set to start at 7:30 p.m.