It is, Jussi Jokinen said, nothing personal.
Just that he enjoys playing against his former team so darned much.
Carolina presumably will be relieved to learn that, if only because it might be terrifying to contemplate what Jokinen could do to the Hurricanes if he didn't have so much affection and respect for them.
He scored three goals in the Penguins 5-2 victory Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center, giving him five in three games against the club that dispatched him to the Penguins at the trade deadline this spring.
"There's always extra motivation when you play against your former team," Jokinen said, right before noting that if shots he put off the goalpost and crossbar had gone in, he would have had a five-goal night.
Although he hasn't been here long, few would deny that the Penguins are getting their money's worth from Jokinen. Or, more to the point, getting the Hurricanes' money's worth from him, since Carolina is picking up $900,000 of his $3 million salary.
The Hurricanes agreed to take on 30 percent of his contract to make the deal happen because they were intent on clearing salary-cap space. Whether they were eager to get rid of Jokinen isn't clear, but he clearly was happy in Carolina, which undoubtedly made being traded away sting a bit.
"I'm sure that motivation is there to do well, and he definitely did that tonight," Hurricanes center Eric Staal said. "He's an opportunistic player that, in the right spots, he can score. He can produce. He showed that tonight."
Although this game carried Jokinen's signature, it created some memories for rookie defenseman Olli Maatta, too. He picked up a pair of assists, his first points in the NHL.
"It feels awesome to get that out of the way," Maatta said. "It's something really big I've always dreamed up, putting up points in the NHL."
The Penguins, who opened the 2013-14 season with a three-game homestand, will visit Florida Friday and Tampa Bay Saturday. They have won their first three games of a season for the fifth time in franchise history and the first since 1994.
"It's a great start for us, 3-0," Jokinen said. "Now, we have to go on the road and do the same thing."
Matching their performances to date won't be easy, because the Penguins have set that bar fairly high.
They not only scored first in each of their three games, but also never have trailed and have outscored opponents, 12-3.
"We're only three games into it," center Brandon Sutter said. "It's too early to say we're really happy with our start, but, so far, it's gone well."
That's largely because of improved team defense and some quality work from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 32 of 34 Carolina shots.
"He was solid, as usual," said Hurricanes center Jordan Staal, a former Penguin who failed to get any of his team-high six shots past Fleury. "He's a good goalie that makes it difficult to score on."
Jokinen got the only goal of the opening period as he cut toward the Carolina net and controlled a Sidney Crosby feed with his right skate before flipping a backhander past goalie Cam Ward for the Penguins' first power-play goal of the season.
Defenseman Paul Martin made it 2-0 at 1:04 of the second when he collected the rebound of a Brooks Orpik shot that slammed off the backboards and threw the puck by Ward from the inner edge of the right circle. While on his knees.
Eric Staal cut the Penguins' edge to 2-1 by deflecting a Justin Faulk shot past Fleury after Orpik had knocked him to the ice, and Nathan Gerbe of Carolina scored at 3:13 of the third to tie the score.
But Jokinen beat Ward from inside the left dot at 5:03 for what proved to be the winner and, after Tanner Glass flipped a backhander over Ward from between the crease and the right circle at 8:24, Jokinen completed his second career hat trick with a shot over Ward's glove from well above the left hash at 13:03.
"The comment after the game in the coaches' room is just the hockey sense, the hockey intelligence, is really off the charts," coach Dan Bylsma said, referring to Jokinen. "It leads into the versatility of being in different spots and doing different things."
And doing them particularly well against his former team.breaking - penguins
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published October 8, 2013 5:46 PM