PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh defeated Carolina 5-2 on Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center thanks to a hat trick from former Hurricane Jussi Jokinen. In fact, the Hurricanes are still paying $900,000 of his salary this season.
"Anybody that ends up in a different spot, that motivation is there to do well and he did that tonight, said Hurricanes captain Eric Staal. "He's an opportunistic player, he can get in the right spots and he can score and he can produce and he showed that tonight with some great moves."
The contest marked the first time the Pens and 'Canes met as Metropolitan division rivals. It wasn't their first time in the same division, however, as they both called the Northeast Division home from 1993-98.
The Penguins struck first for the third time in as many games at 14:17 of the first period. Less than a minute into their first power play, Sidney Crosby hit a streaking Jokinen. The pass wasn't exactly on Jokinen's tape, as it deflected into his skates, but just as he reached the crease he was able to kick the puck far enough up to tap it in on his backhand as he fell to the ice.
Despite the deficit only being one goal after the first, Carolina head coach Kirk Muller didn't like his team's approach in the first frame, stating, "The first period we gave them a bit too much respect."
Just over a minute into the second period, the Penguins took advantage of the extra ice on a 4-on-4 and notched a second tally. Defenseman Paul Martin found the rebound of partner Brooks Orpik's shot off the back boards, dropped to his knees and backhanded the puck past a sprawling Cam Ward.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal finally got Carolina on the board 13:24 into the second. While defenseman Justin Faulk was winding up to take a shot from the right point, Staal battled from below the goal line to get out to the front of the net before being knocked down. Staal deflected the Faulk shot just under the crossbar from his backside to pull Carolina within one.
The Hurricanes pulled even at 3:13 of the third when Nathan Gerbe grabbed a rebound and fired a rather ordinary wrist shot from the slot that snuck inside the left post. It appeared that Fleury was screened on the play because he did not react to the Gerbe shot.
It didn't take long for the Penguins to answer, however, as less than two minutes later Jokinen recorded his second goal of the game, wristing a shot past the stick side of Ward to put the Penguins back ahead 3-2. Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta registered his first NHL point on the goal picking up the secondary assist, the first of two on the night.
"Today he ends up with two assists, could easily have a third assist," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. "The kid does not look 19 years old, that's for sure."
Tanner Glass put a fourth Pittsburgh goal on the board when pushed a shot on net, got his own rebound and backhanded it over a down-and-out Ward to put the Penguins ahead by two goals 8:24 into the third. Glass, not known for his goal scoring, also had a spirited bout with Carolina defenseman Jay Harrison in the first period.
"You might not score your first until the 30 game mark or you might get it in your third," said Glass. "Each guy has a role and I'm following that role pretty well right now."
Jokinen completed his hat trick at 13:03 of the third by wristing a shot over the glove hand of Ward. It appeared the shot was deflected by the stick of a Carolina defenseman. After the game, Jokinen couldn't deny that there was extra motivation.
"There's always extra motivation when you play against your former team. I could have had five goals tonight. I hit the post and the crossbar too."
Fleury made 32 saves to earn the victory, while Ward made 31 saves in defeat.
NOTES: Fleury was named third star of the week for posting a 2-0 record and a .979 save percentage in the NHL's opening week. ... Eric Staal is now one game shy of tying Rod Brind'Amour for fourth on the franchise's all-time games-played list. ... Ron Francis, Hurricanes vice president of hockey operations, played for the Penguins for eight seasons from 1991-98 and ranks fifth on Pittsburgh's all-time points list. ... The official attendance was 18,451, which was Pittsburgh's 289th consecutive sellout. ... Scratches for the Penguins were D Deryk Engelland and LW James Neal (upper body). Scratches for the Hurricanes were D Mike Komisarek and RW Kevin Westgarth. ... The Penguins next game is Friday at Florida. The Hurricanes back are in action Thursday when they travel to Washington, which will be their 1,200th regular-season game since relocating to Carolina in 1997.