Jokinen goals do the trick for Penguins in victory over Carolina
Jussi Jokinen scored a goal on Tuesday for every $300,000 that Carolina is paying him to play for the Penguins.
Jokinen turned a hat trick — the 200th in Penguins history — in a 5-2 victory over the Hurricanes at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins (3-0-0, 6 points) are off to their best start since 1995, when they won seven consecutive games to open the season. Their next four opponents failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, but coach Dan Bylsma does not want players to get ahead of themselves.
Then again, that is exactly what defenseman Olli Maatta is doing.
He assisted on two of Jokinen's goals for his first NHL points.
He is 19.
“He does not look 19, that's for sure,” Bylsma said.
Maatta, the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, so impressed coaches during training camp that he was a candidate to begin the season with the Penguins before top defenseman Kris Letang was lost to a lower-body injury.
He can play in no more than nine games before this season would count as the first of his entry-level designation.
The Penguins, a salary-cap squad the past six seasons, don't want to start the clock ticking on Maatta because he could provide them a high return for minimum investment starting next season.
He may leave them no choice, though, because his performance in three NHL games hints he has advanced beyond needing any more schooling at the junior level.
His ice time has increased each game. He is a plus-1, and he hasn't taken a penalty.
Maatta can play only in the NHL or with his junior club because of a deal between the league and Hockey Canada.
He hardly was overwhelmed by a multipoint performance against Carolina.
“It was pretty easy,” Maatta said. “I just passed the forwards the puck. They did the rest.”
Maatta's first pass found center Evgeni Malkin, who drew the attention of Hurricanes players before dishing to Jokinen, whose second goal was scored a minute and 50 seconds after Carolina had pulled even, 2-2, in the third period.
Malkin has recorded a point in 10 consecutive games against Carolina.
Defenseman Paul Martin and winger Tanner Glass also scored for the Penguins, who have outscored opponents 12-3.
Maatta's second point was earned after he fed Jokinen directly, and Jokinen buried his trick-turning third goal against Carolina goalie Cam Ward late in regulation.
Maatta said he “pretty much” knew Jokinen, also from Finland, would help him to his first points.
“He's been a big help,” Maatta said. “He's been getting me use to the system, used to the ‘rules' in the dressing room.”
Maatta and Jokinen do not live together, as did Malkin and fellow Russian Sergei Gonchar during Malkin's early years with the Penguins.
Still, Maatta and Jokinen do speak daily away from the rink, and some of those conversations are about the strange turns an NHL life can take.
Consider Jokinen, who did not click with Carolina coach Kirk Muller last season. That was a big reason Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford traded Jokinen to the Penguins — and thanks to a new rule in the labor contract conceded to keep $900,000 of Jokinen's $3 million salary on the Carolina books.
“I have nothing but good things to say about that organization,” Jokinen said of Carolina. “They were good to me. But I'm really happy to be in this organization. It's world class.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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