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Backes Brings A Boost

Veteran winger's physicality, leadership helped set pace in Bruins' Game 2 victory over Toronto

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - Naturally, David Backes did not enjoy his view of Game 1.

As the Bruins opened up their first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, the veteran winger watched from Level 9 of TD Garden as a healthy scratch. It was not the way he envisioned starting his postseason.

But the 13-year NHL veteran was not going to let his disappointment infiltrate Boston's dressing room.

"I need to be ready when called upon to not be a distraction or a negative impact," Backes said ahead of Game 2. "These guys are an awesome group of guys…my turn to be in the press box…I watch a hockey game and support my teammates to try to win a game."

Things change quickly in the postseason, however. Following the Bruins' lackluster Game 1 loss, Bruce Cassidy wanted a changed of pace and called upon Backes to help provide a boost.

Mission accomplished.

On his second shift of the game, Backes barreled in on the forecheck, freed up the puck, and delivered a feed to Charlie Coyle out front. Coyle buried it to open the scoring and set the tone in Boston's bounce-back, 4-1 victory over the Leafs on Saturday night at TD Garden.

"The 8 o'clock game gave me an extra hour to prepare," said Backes, who finished with three shots on goal and a plus-2 rating in just over 12 minutes of ice time as Boston knotted the series at one game apiece. "Was looking forward to this game ever since I was told I wasn't going to be an active participant in Thursday's game…got to channel that in the right way, in a constructive, controlled manner and was able to make a little bit of impact tonight."

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm2: Backes feeds Coyle for opening goal

It was more than a little, particularly in the early going. After not playing since the regular-season finale last Saturday, Backes clearly had his legs and wreaked havoc during his first couple of shifts while playing the right wing alongside Coyle and Danton Heinen on Boston's third line.

"Obviously it was huge for us," said David Pastrnak, who assisted on Brad Marchand's first-period goal. "Backs is a very physical player and he brought it tonight and was all over the ice and obviously it was huge for us and a big win."

On Coyle's goal, it was Heinen and Backes that provided the heat behind Toronto's net. As Heinen pressured Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, Backes surged around the goal and snagged away the puck, before delivering a one-handed backhand feed to Coyle out front. Coyle converted for his first postseason goal with the Black & Gold, which provided Boston a 1-0 lead just 4:44 into the contest.

"It was great, I was looking forward to it," Coyle said of playing with Backes. "Obviously a big guy. He's a full package player who brings it all. He's got the skill to go along with his big frame and big physical presence and he was a presence out there. So it was nice to play with a guy like that."

Backes's heavy style of play was needed after Toronto brought the body more than expected in Game 1 - and he did not disappoint. The 34-year-old led all players with seven hits, a bruising barrage that had a trickle down effect throughout the Bruins lineup.

"He did it from the start," said Cassidy. "His line created the loose-puck turnover on the first goal. I think he recognized what he needed to do. He watched the game from up top the other night. Something we were lacking. We addressed it. We needed him to do it. We needed other players to do it. All of a sudden you drag other people in. Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak had some great hits."

Video: Backes discusses standout game in return

And it was not just his play on the ice that his teammates appreciated. Backes, who captained St. Louis for five seasons and has been an alternate during his three years in Boston, also brings a valued voice on the bench and in the dressing room.

"He's a leader. He does that," added Cassidy. "He's been through these playoff battles, so he did his job and then some tonight, and we needed it."

"I thought he hunted pucks great. He was physical and we expect that from him," said Chris Wagner. "Like you guys don't see on the bench, he is a loud voice and I thought a lot of guys have echoed that, but it's true and we respect him a lot for that."

The respect is certainly mutual.

Backes complimented his teammates for their response on Saturday night, pointing specifically to the sacrifice and commitment that everyone on the roster made in what was an emotional, hearty contest.

"We had guys dialed in tonight," said Backes, who also saw time with David Krejci on the B's second line. "I think Game 1 was a slap in the face, a little wake-up call, and guys responded excellent tonight. Even with some of the shenanigans going on, we were focused on what we needed on our next opportunity. We got out there and we did it.

"Tuukka [Rask] was solid in net, and we had different guys, JD and Pasta, and guys that maybe are known for flying up the wing and scoring a goal that are laying the body, taking hits when they need to and playing through some gnarly stuff.

"That's team building and that's what we're looking for. I think it was a great response by us, but it's one game. We've got to go in their building and we've got work to do after they took Game 1 from us here."

Video: Bruins win Game 2 to even series with Maple Leafs

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