Hit on Wings’ Frans Nielsen gets David Backes 3-game suspension

Gregg Krupa

Boston — When the familiar sound of bodies into the boards thundered across TD Garden an even dozen seconds before the end of the first period, it seemed odd.

From where did it come?

After a hearing on the incident, the NHL Players Safety Committee suspended David Backes, the Bruins big forward for three games Wednesday as a result of his body-check on Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen.

When Backes drove Nielsen into the boards, the contact happened separately from the flow of play.

Referees assessed a two-minute roughing penalty.

The referees, Tom Chmielewski and Jean Hebert, judged that they should not employ other NHL rules, including one prohibiting an illegal check to the head, “where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable.”

That rule, Rule 48, also provides the sanctions of a minor penalty, a match penalty and “if deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner, at his discretion.”

The NHL uses the Players Safety Committee to exercise the commissioner’s discretion.

The hit came so late, at such an inconsequential position on the ice at that precise juncture of the game, observers in “the Garden” scrambled for replays, asking those near them what they had seen.

They did see Nielsen lying face down on the ice, at first motionless, then grasping his head with both hands, writhing.

A trainer and teammates helped Nielsen from the ice.

He went down the aisle to the training room and did not return to the game.

“He’s definitely out the next couple of games,” GM Ken Holland said Wednesday.

Replays show Backes taking a run at Nielsen, and initiating contact with Nielsen’s chin and chest.

Nielsen’s chin flew drastically to his right shoulder, as if struck squarely by the punch of a heavyweight.

As he falls listlessly to the ice, the replays show him no longer in control of the movements of his body. He floundered to the ice.

After the game, amid the psychic debris of yet another hard-fought, close loss, some Red Wings essentially accused Backes of head-hunting.


While intent is difficult to discern from a replay, it certainly seems as though Backes lined up Nielsen and, well after the play had moved on, struck him on the chin and chest.

“It’s an unnecessary hit to the head,” Henrik Zetterberg said.

“He’s a big piece of us,” Zetterberg said of Nielsen. “He plays in all situations, the PK, the power play, shutdown guy. So, how he is, I don’t know.

“Probably going to have to see the doctors, and where we go from here.

“That was a big loss for us.”

Mantha stands out

Anthony Mantha had one of the best games of his career against the Bruins.

He scored twice and assisted on two of the Red Wings’ five goals amid their furious but, ultimately, failed comeback.

Coach Jeff Blashill credited Mantha will helping lead the Wings back from 2-0 in the first 52 seconds, and from 4-2 at 3:27 of the second period.

But asked about his fine performance after the game, Mantha directed attention to the failure to retrieve a loose puck in front of the Red Wings’ net in overtime, which led directly to the Bruins’ game-winning goal.

“Just a silly mistake in overtime there,” he said. “But we knew we had to battle back, and we did.

“We obviously need to play 60 minutes. I don’t think we’ve been playing full games lately.”

Coreau’s rough start

Jared Coreau allowed four goals on 16 shots, two in the first two shots on goal in the first 52 seconds and failed to hold the near post when Brad Marchand of the Bruins, who often scores goals from an acute angle, fired it in from that direction.

Coreau talked to the media after the game and said, simply, “Not good enough.”

He said he intended to put a bad game behind him and rebound.

“I’ve got to bide my time in practice, look at the video and see what I’ve got to work on and we’ll go from there,” Coreau said.