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First Night Behind Bench a Culmination for Cassidy

Interim head coach soaks it all in during Bruins win over Sharks

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - As Bruce Cassidy walked out of the tunnel and onto the Bruins bench Thursday night, he couldn't help but look up.

For Cassidy, the moment was a culmination. Not only was it his return to being a leading man in the National Hockey League, but also the accomplishment of a lasting dream.

The 51-year-old Cassidy grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, but his heart was in Boston. A lifelong Bruins fan, Cassidy worshipped Bobby Orr. His first pair of skates were even black and gold.

So as Cassidy settled into his spot behind the bench for his first game as interim head coach, he took a peek up into the rafters at all the championship banners and soaked it all in.

"I could probably name every player on those Stanley Cup teams," said Cassidy. "I've had an attachment to the Bruins my entire life. It's a great honor for me to stand up there and be in charge. It was a great night that way."

It was a great night in plenty of other ways, too.

The Bruins erupted by tying a season-high in goals during a 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden, securing Cassidy - who had not been a head coach in the NHL since the 2003-04 season with Washington - his first victory.

Video: Bergeron, Pastrnak lead Bruins to 6-3 win vs. Sharks

"I liked our start in terms of scoring first," said Cassidy, who replaced Claude Julien on Tuesday after spending the first five months of the season as one of Julien's assistants.

"I liked that we got pucks to the dirty area offensively, and we were willing to go there…I liked our resiliency when we got scored on. We didn't get down, we came back and just kept playing. And I liked that we reestablished some urgency in this building.

"There's a whole list of things we can go down, but those I guess are the things that come to mind."

Read Game Recap: Bruins Beat Sharks, 6-3, at TD Garden

Cassidy installed a number of tweaks over two days of practice, chief among them a concerted effort to play with more pace. The players embraced the uptick in tempo and it was clear that it carried over into game action.

"You always play good when you have a lot of energy and you're skating and you're moving your legs so it was really big for us," said David Pastrnak, who potted two power-playgoals. "We got the big first goal and we kept getting better…obviously we came a little more energized.

"We wanted to get the win for Bruce, the first win, so I think we all came a little bit more energized and we did a good job as a team."

Video: Bruins speak after 6-3 win over San Jose

"That says a lot about the pace and maybe that's coming from practice," added David Backes, who tallied a goal and two assists to snap a seven-game scoreless streak. "Maybe that's coming from a little bit of a lull in the schedule where we had a couple days of rest and then being able to hit the ice hard for a couple days and carry that into the game."

Backes was moved up to play the right side alongside Patrice Bergeron (one goal, three assists) and Brad Marchand. The trio combined for three goals - one each - and six assists. Bergeron (four goals, eight assists) and Marchand (seven goals, five assists) each extended their points streaks to six games.

"I thought [Backes] was rock solid, offensively good," said Cassidy. "He's banging some bodies - big hit on [Joe] Thornton. Listen, Bergy and Marchy make a lot of players better.

"David Backes is a very good player and tonight he did his part on that line. It was a good line for us, and we've seen that - Bergy and March do some really good things with wingers and it's something Backs needed tonight.

"I think he relished the opportunity to get out there with them and he was the driving force on that line."

Video: SJS@BOS: Backes buries an early goal from the slot

One area that Cassidy wasn't completely pleased with was his team's defensive game. At times, he felt that the Bruins - without captain Zdeno Chara because of illness - were too loose in their own end. But with the tweaks made to push the pace offensively, Cassidy explained, some letdowns were to be expected.

"When you're trying to instill certain things you've got to live with some of that and then we'll just dial it back," said Cassidy. "We saw a lot of that where we were active and sometimes trying to make some plays through the neutral zone that we want to make when they're there.

"We'll address it tomorrow…some nights it's going to bite you, so you have to find that balance, but we do want to play this way. We've said that for the last two days; we want to play on our toes and be a little more assertive in our overall game and see where it goes."

Video: SJS@BOS: Bergeron slips a rebound past Jones

It was all a step in the right direction. But it was just that, a step. The Bruins know they must build on their effort as the stretch run approaches.

"I mean, after what happened a few days ago you have to look at yourself - everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror and realize we have to do better," said Bergeron. "It starts with one game. So, hopefully, we build from that and realize how we have to play the game and the intensity that we need.

"But, that being said, we can't just rely on one game. It's about moving forward and keep pushing and definitely using that game as an example of how we need to play."

The Bruins - and Cassidy, in particular - will enjoy this victory. But on Friday, the work continues.

"I feel great," said Cassidy. "It's been a busy two or three days…I'll tell you this, I'm going to sleep well tonight, but tomorrow's a new day. We'll get back to work, and see if we can build on this one. But I mean, yeah, who doesn't enjoy a win?"

Video: SJS@BOS: Pastrnak blasts home a sizzling PPG

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