BOSTON — With three seconds left in the second period, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman John Marino fulfilled a dream. He scored his first NHL goal and did it in front of friends and family in Boston, which is his hometown.
The former Harvard defenseman Marino didn’t meet his parents at center ice or pin a corsage on his mother for this homecoming. The Boston native, now Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman played his first NHL game in his hometown Monday night. Like Ontario boys playing their first game at Maple Leaf Gardens or the ACC center, the first game in Boston is a right of passage for many players from the U.S. hockey cradle. And Marino scored his first NHL goal as the Penguins rallied from a three-goal deficit to claim a 4-3 lead after two periods.
The Penguins 22-year-old defenseman has been a pleasant surprise this season. The team acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for a conditional sixth-round draft choice after Edmonton determined they could not sign the pending collegiate free agent. In short order, he earned an NHL roster spot and made veteran defenseman Erik Gudbranson expendable.
“You don’t really think about that when you’re younger. You know, coming to games here when I was a kid, and rooting for the Bruins, it’s going to be a pretty cool experience for sure,” Marino told Boston Hockey Now Jimmy Murphy before the game.
“That was pretty cool, you know, on this ice,” Marino told the media outside the visitors’ dressing room at TD Garden before the game. “It was pretty packed here. Yeah, that was a special experience.”
Marino’s family packed the TD Garden to see Marino’s first Boston game and got an extra special treat as Marino (1) bolted from the penalty box late in the second period for a breakaway goal. The family aspect certainly didn’t hurt Marino’s game.
“I think it might be a little different with [so many] friends and family,” he said. “If anything, I think I may play with a little bit more of an edge. I think it’s going to more special for me. … I’ll just go out there and try to play my game.”
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is also from Boston and understands the special homecoming.
“He just has to relax and play his game,” Sullivan said. “It’s always exciting for a player when they come home. … We don’t want him to change a thing. Just bring his game. He’s done nothing but get better since Day 1 of training camp. He’s earned his way onto this roster, and he continues to earn his way onto the roster.”
The Penguins scored four unanswered goals in the second period after Boston scored early in the period to claim a 3-0 lead. The Penguins scored four goals in the final 15 minutes of the period.