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Looking back on Penguins stars’ first NHL fights

John Marino dropped the gloves for the first time in his NHL career on Thursday, and it’s made us nostalgic.

Ottawa Senators v Pittsburgh Penguins
John Marino drops the gloves against Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk during the third period on January 20.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Of course John Marino earned the helmet after the Penguins’ Thursday night 6-5 victory over the visiting Senators; in his 147th regular-season game, the defenseman dropped his gloves against notorious Ottawa instigator Brady Tkachuk for his first NHL fight, the hockey equivalent of a coming-of-age ceremony.

It’s a moment each Penguins star went through over a decade ago (feel old yet)? Let’s celebrate Marino’s milestone by looking back at when the gloves of the Penguins’ big three dropped for the first time.

Sidney Crosby vs. Andrew Ference (Dec. 20, 2007)

By scoring, assisting and dropping the gloves with Andrew Ference, Crosby recorded his first NHL fight as part of his first Gordie Howe hat trick.

After opening the game by scoring a goal and assisting on two Evgeni Malkin strikes during the Penguins’ three-goal first period, Crosby was crunched into corner boards by Ference during a second-period rush— and responded by dropping the gloves.

It was a brief scrap. In fewer than 15 seconds, the pair were pulled apart by referees, which is probably a good thing for the young star’s hands and head. The Penguins went on to defeat the host Bruins, 5-4.

In 121 QMJHL games, Crosby had never before dropped his gloves— meaning this was potentially Sid the Kid’s first hockey fight, ever. Not bad for a first-timer.

Kris Letang vs. Marc Staal (March 30, 2008)

Unlike Crosby, Letang was no stranger to fighting in the QMJHL, so perhaps it came as no surprise to the Penguins when the defenseman dropped the gloves in just his 68th regular-season NHL game.

The score was 2-1, advantage Penguins, when tensions rose in the second period against the visiting New York Rangers. Letang wasn’t involved in the initial collision with Jaromir Jagr that sparked the ill will between the Rangers and the Penguins, but he was the highlight of the brawl. As the two teams came together, he hooked Marc Staal— brother of Jordan Staal, who was a Penguin at the time— around the neck and yanked him down to the ice.

Letang led all skaters in the 3-1 Penguins victory with seven PIM.

Evgeni Malkin vs. Henrik Zetterberg (May 31, 2009)

Sure, Crosby’s first fight was part of a Gordie Howe hat trick— but Malkin claims the prestige of throwing his first hockey punch while the Penguins were on the way to the first Stanley Cup of the Crosby/Malkin era.

It was Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Penguins and the Red Wings, and the Penguins were trailing after a Game 1 loss— so Malkin did his best to spark the Penguins at Joe Louis Arena. After scoring on a first-period power play wasn’t enough to will the team to victory, Malkin took out his frustration at the Penguins’ looming two-game series deficit by instigating a fight with future Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg.

It didn’t fix the 3-1 Game 2 loss, but maybe it helped spark the Penguins to tie the series by Game 4. Readers may already recall how things went in Game 7.

What’s your choice for the most memorable “first fight” by a Pittsburgh Penguin?