PITTSBURGH — Jussi Jokinen scored his first career hat trick and the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled away from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 5-2 win Tuesday night.
Jokinen, who was acquired from the Hurricanes last spring, helped the Penguins improve to 3-0, opening the scoring in the first period and adding two goals in the third after Carolina drew even at 2-2.
Paul Martin and Tanner Glass also scored for Pittsburgh, while Sidney Crosby picked up his first two assists of the season. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots for the Penguins, who have not trailed through three games. Pittsburgh has outscored opponents 12-3 while getting off to the franchise’s best start since 1994-95.
Eric Staal and Nathan Gerbe scored for the Hurricanes and Cam Ward made 32 saves, but Carolina crumbled in the final 15 minutes after erasing an early two-goal deficit.
The Penguins brought in Jokinen last March after four-plus seasons in Carolina, hoping the talented winger would help them lift the Stanley Cup.
The rebuilding Hurricanes even agreed to pay $900,000 of the $3 million Jokinen is due this year just to get him out of town.
While Jokinen and Pittsburgh failed to win a championship, he showed an ability to blend in with Penguins stars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The Hurricanes drew even on Gerbe’s goal 3:13 into the third period, but it didn’t last long. Jokinen sandwiched goals around a marker by Glass and the Penguins were off to their best start since the 1994-95 team won its first seven games.
The Penguins came in 0 for 3 on the season on the power play before breaking through 14:17 into the first period. With Carolina’s Jay Harrison off for tripping, Pittsburgh took the lead when Crosby tried a centering pass that deflected off Staal and right to Jokinen.
WILD: Goaltender Niklas Backstrom hurt his right leg in the first period against the Nashville Predators, knocking him out of the game.
The Wild said after the first period Tuesday night that Backstrom would be evaluated today for a lower body injury.
Backstrom was pushed back into the post at 11:14 of the first when Wild defenseman Keith Ballard tripped Predators forward Eric Nystrom on a breakaway. Nystrom crashed into Backstrom, knocking him backward with his right leg hitting the post.
The goalie slowly skated off the ice and went to the locker room.
Josh Harding gave up a goal on Nystrom’s first career penalty shot.
Backstrom is 0-0-2 this season. He tied for the NHL lead with 24 wins last season.