WASHINGTON — After adding to the uproar over NFL players who protest during the national anthem, President Trump mostly stuck to hockey in honoring the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, calling them “true champions and incredible patriots.”

Trump welcomed the Penguins into the Oval Office and celebrated their second consecutive title in the East Room of the White House. He singled out the achievements of playoff MVP Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, among others.

Trump has made sports headlines in recent weeks with his criticism of NFL players for kneeling during the anthem and his decision to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from the White House for the type of championship visit made by the Penguins, the New England Patriots and the Chicago Cubs along with the Clemson football team.

“Everybody wanted to be here today,” Trump said of the Penguins. “And I know why.”

Hours after tweeting that the tax code should be changed to punish NFL teams over the anthem issue, Trump joked that Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle should help him renegotiate NAFTA but largely avoided any talk about other sports.

“It’s been an honor to have them all here,” Trump said.

Crosby has said on multiple occasions that the team’s decision to go to the White House was not politically motivated. Coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins understand the circumstances of their visit and that he didn’t feel like Trump was using them as a political prop.

“We’ve stated clearly from the get-go that our visit to the White House is not political,” Sullivan said. “Nobody’s choosing a side. Nobody’s taking a stand. We are simply honoring our championship and the accomplishments of this group of players over this season or the last two seasons.”

Of the 18 players who won the Cup last season and are still with the Penguins, seven are American: Kessel, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Chad Ruhwedel and Conor Sheary.

TUESDAY’S GAMES

BLACKHAWKS 3, CANADIENS 1: Alex DeBrincat scored his first NHL goal and set up one for Artem Anisimov to help Chicago spoil Montreal’s home opener.

Brandon Saad also scored for Chicago. Tomas Plekanec scored for Montreal.

BLUES 3, RANGERS 1: Carter Hutton made 16 of his 32 saves in the third period to help St. Louis remain unbeaten with a win at New York.

Carl Gunnarsson and Brayden Schenn scored first-period goals for the Blues (4-0). Jaden Schwartz added an empty-netter late.

BLUE JACKETS 2, HURRICANES 1: Sonny Milano scored two goals, including the winner on a breakaway with 22 seconds left in overtime to give Columbus a win at Raleigh, North Carolina.

Milano scored midway through the third period before Jeff Skinner tied it late in regulation with Carolina’s net empty.