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Bruins return to form in Game 2 victory against Maple Leafs

Backes adds spark, defense tightens up to even first-round series

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- As David Backes, newly inserted into the Boston Bruins lineup for Game 2, walked down the hallway to the team's locker room before the game, he grabbed a gold rally towel and waved it over his head. He was ready. He would make sure that the Bruins were ready.

Two nights after the Bruins looked unprepared to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round, they were nearly jumping out of their skin at the start of Game 2 on Saturday at TD Garden. 

They were unafraid. They were physical. They were the team they have been for the past three months while tearing up the NHL.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]

 

And so they were rewarded, with a 4-1 win against the Maple Leafs, tying the best-of-7 series heading into Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NESN). 

"I think Game 1 was a slap in the face, a little wake-up call, and guys responded tonight," said Backes, who learned he would be rejoining the lineup that morning. 

It was only 4:44 into the first period that Charlie Coyle -- the Bruins' best forward in Game 1 -- scored, the assist going to Backes, the veteran leader with the voice that carries on the bench and the style that can (and apparently, did) spark his team. 

"[There was] something we were lacking," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We addressed it. We needed him to do it. We needed other players to do it."

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

Because it was all of them, so much more than just Backes. So much more than a swap of one player for another. 

This was the swap of one attitude for another, of one style of play for another, of the type of team that the Bruins have always embraced for one that was a shell of themselves in Game 1. 

"We're not a team that runs from a physical game," Cassidy said. "I think it brings out the best of us at times."

It certainly did on Saturday. 

The Bruins attempted to out-big and out-bad the Maple Leafs on Saturday, and it was wholly effective. Toronto appeared -- as the Bruins had on Thursday -- thoroughly out of their element, forced into miscues and mistakes all over the ice, none worse than the giveaway at the Toronto net by William Nylander that translated into a gift of a goal for Danton Heinen at 10:39 of the third period, opening up a three-goal lead for the home team, after Brad Marchand had scored at 16:04 of the first.

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm2: Marchand goes five-hole on Andersen

"We knew that we didn't play to our identity in Game 1," Cassidy said. "We were aware of it and we want to move past it and have a good response game. How do you respond? You're physical, win the puck battles, control momentum in the first period, attack when you have the chance, puck possession. 

"We had a lot of check lists. Basically, let them know how we're going to play and kind of tilt it in our favor after that."

It wasn't just the physicality. The Bruins shored up a defense that let the Maple Leafs run wild on Thursday, allowing stretch passes to turn into breakaways to turn into goals. They got pucks to the front of the net and put pressure on a defense that seemed to crumble in the face of it, saved only by some impressive stops by goalie Frederik Andersen. 

"I think we just played to our system," defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "We just played our style of hockey. We were emotional, but we were reserved at the same time. … I think [being physical] is something that we have to try and do. I think that is one of the many traits that's within our team culture. I think we are able to do it and we have guys that like to do it."

Video: Boston Bruins come back and tie the series at one

Coyle said, "You don't want to go too reckless. You want to stay in control but do it the right way. You remember that. when a guy comes down hard on you and finishes a check, you'll see some guys cough up pucks and it wears on you as the series goes on."

But as well as Game 2 went for the Bruins, it wasn't all positive. By the end of the game, three Bruins players were off the ice, with defensemen Torey Krug and Connor Clifton exiting early, and forward Jake DeBrusk necessitating tests after a cross-check by Nazem Kadri at 14:03 of the third that resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct for the Maple Leafs forward, who has been offered an in-person hearing by the Department of Player Safety. 

It was unclear after the game whether any of them would be available on Monday. DeBrusk, who declined to speak about the Kadri cross-check, said he did a series of tests and was awaiting results after the game. 

And it's not just the potential casualties. 

The series could tilt back in the direction of the Maple Leafs just as quickly as it tilted toward the Bruins on Saturday. Just because the Bruins were able to assert themselves, because offensive players were showing their grit and gumption, doesn't mean that they've captured anything.

Not in a series that is now guaranteed a fifth game, and which looks destined to go longer than that.

"That's team building and that's what we're looking for," Backes said, of the physicality of his teammates. "I think it was a great response by us, but it's one game."  

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