In six games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jussi Jokinen hasn’t lost a game.
He’s had quite a hand in that perfection, too, and it was on display again as Jokinen racked up three more points in the Penguins 3-2 victory Saturday in an emotionally charged TD Garden in Boston against the Bruins.
In six games since coming to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, Jokinen has scored 4 times. He has 4 assists. And these days without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, he’s centering the team’s top line.
Placed on waivers in late March in Carolina, Jokinen has come to Pittsburgh and put new meaning to the sports cliche of ‘making a fresh start.’
“This season, for sure,” Jokinen said after the win Saturday when asked if this is the best hockey he’s played. “When I scored thirty goals I had a pretty strong year with Carolina a few years back. But obviously it feels good right now. We have a really good team here. There’s a winning culture around this locker-room. We didn’t play our best [today] but we found a way to win a hockey game.”
Jokinen’s goal in the second period jump started the Pittsburgh scoring after the Bruins carried the better of the play in the first frame and took a 1-0 lead. Playing at the end of the shift the team’s checking line, Jokinen continued to display his nose for finding the puck in scoring areas, backhanding a rebound past Tuukka Rask to tie the game at 1.
“Our fourth line did a great job there behind their net,” Jokinen said. “Joey V [Vitale] had a [line] change and I came in a fresh guy and Tanner [Glass] and Addsy [Craig Adams] did a great job behind the net to get a puck to the point to Nisky [Matt Niskanen] and he was able to get a good low shot on the net. I was able to find the puck and get a goal and it was a big goal for our team.”
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma agreed, and after the game credited Jokinen’s goal for stabilizing the team in front of a Boston crowd that had gone through an emotional week with bombs exploding at the Boston Marathon and the manhunt that ensued, keeping the city locked-down and forcing the original Friday night game to be postponed a day.
“We were kind of sitting around here three days and it wasn’t the easiest circumstances for us or them either but they had a little bit more jump early in the game,” Jokinen said. “We were able to get a couple of power plays and capitalize on those and that was the difference in the game. And Tomas [Vokoun] was unbelievable in the net.”
Jussi Jokinen had helpers on both of Pittsburgh’s power-play tallies in the third period, indeed the difference in the game. His first set up Jarome Iginla for a blast from the point to make it 2-1. Then, Jokinen’s hard work digging a puck out of the corner sprung Kris Letang’s game-winning wrister.
Perhaps more importantly, his net-front presence early in the third-period caused Brad Marchand to lose his cool, sending him to the penalty box for the man-advantage that resulted in Iginla’s go-ahed goal.
“It’s always like that when you come play here,” Jokinen said of the chippy play in Beantown. “Lots of emotions, lots of hitting, battles. I don’t know, [Marchand] was maybe mad at me for some reason. I’m not the guy who fights there. That’s not why they pay me. I wasn’t close to going with him.”
The win clinched the Eastern Conference’s top-seed for the Penguins.
“It’s a big deal,” Jokinen said. “Obviously we have a lot of confidence in how we play in our home rink and with our home fans. I think it’s going to be huge when we go to the playoffs and we have home ice. We’ll take it.”
And the Penguins have been glad to take Jokinen off Carolina’s hands