When NHL stars collide: Unlikely fighters who have dropped the gloves

Pavel Datsyuk lands a shot on Corey Perry. (Carlos Osorio/AP)
Pavel Datsyuk lands a shot on Corey Perry. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

Evgeni Malkin had five NHL fights on his resume coming into Wednesday’s anticipated grudge match against the Jets.

There was no question Malkin would be a marked man after he clocked Jets captain Blake Wheeler with a dirty head shot only a few weeks back. And to his credit, Malkin answered the bell and dropped the gloves less than four minutes into the game.

Although fighting isn’t celebrated like it once was, this was one of those tilts that most would agree still has a place in the game — two guys respectfully settling a score and moving on.

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It’s even more memorable when the players involved are known for using their hands to rack up points, not PIMS.

While it’s not common to see two skill guys punch each other in the face, it does happen from time to time. Here are some of the more unlikely bouts from years past.

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Evgeni Malkin vs. Henrik Zetterberg

It’s only right to start this thing off with Malkin’s most memorable fight, a flailing postseason skirmish with Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg.

It was the first fight of Malkin’s career, and although Zetterberg never got his gloves off it was also the first and only time he has been handed a fighting major.

Joe Sakic vs. Doug Gilmour

Joe Sakic got in his first fight in his second season (against Gary Leeman), and it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that he dropped the gloves again.

Doug Gilmour, despite being nicknamed “Killer,” was not much of a fighter. Prior to this tilt with Sakic in March 1999, Gilmour had only been in nine NHL fights.

His 10th didn’t go too well, as Sakic scored a decisive upset victory.

Sidney Crosby vs. Claude Giroux

When it comes to unexpected chaos, all bets are off when the Flyers and Penguins face off.

The hatred is real, but even so it was a little jarring to see two consecutive fights involving unlikely combatants in Game 3 of the 2012 quarterfinals.

Sidney Crosby got the decision in the main event against Claude Giroux, while Kris Letang scored a big victory over Kimmo Timonen on the undercard.

Pavel Datsyuk vs. The Ducks

Pavel Datsyuk is a man of peace. Unless he’s playing the Anaheim Ducks.

The Magic Man only has two fights in his career, and both came against Ducks stars. His first (above) came against Scott Niedermayer, he of four career NHL fights, in the second round of the 2009 postseason.

His second came against Corey Perry, which is rare but not surprising because even the most peaceful men want to punch Perry in the face. Datsyuk fared a little better this time around.

Mike Modano vs. Rod Brind’Amour

Mike Modano played nearly 1,500 games in the NHL and fought all of one time.

Unfortunately, he picked a pretty tough customer in Rod Brind’Amour, who only had two fights to his name at this point as both players were in their second year in the league.

It’s understandable why he chose to never fight again after this.

Mario Lemieux vs. Bobby Carpenter
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Despite being arguably the most skilled player to ever play the game, Mario Lemieux was never one to back down from a fight.

One of his first fights in the league came against another skill player in Bobby Carpenter, who was coming off a 53-goal season with the Capitals.

Although Carpenter had experience with 16 fights under his belt, Lemieux absolutely dominated him with a series of devastating right hands.

Denis Savard vs. Dale Hawerchuk

With more than 2,700 career points combined, Denis Savard and Dale Hawerchuk might be the most accomplished pair of combatants to ever square off.

This bout was also the final time either future Hall of Famer dropped the gloves, giving Savard 13 fights in his career and Hawerchuk nine.

Peter Bondra vs. Sami Kapanen

This one is just bizarre.

A 35-year-old Peter Bondra decided to drop the gloves for the first and only time of his career in a preseason game against Philadelphia’s Sami Kapanen.

It was the second career fight for Kapanen, who also had an unlikely tilt with flyweight Bruins forward Sergei Samsonov in February 2002.

Jarome Iginla vs. Vincent Lecavalier

No list would be complete without mentioning the vaunted bout between Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier in Game 3 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.

This was an incredible moment on the biggest stage, but it wasn’t really all that “unlikely.”

Over their careers, Iginla and Lecavalier had more than 100 career fights combined. Heck, Iginla got in three fights that postseason alone.

But still, it deserves to be mentioned because there might not be a more memorable fight between two superstars in their primes.