Controversy in U.S. win

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — American David Backes had an end-to-end rush for a goal, a bloody nose and a potential black eye Tuesday.

Backes scored what turned out to be the winner in the USA’s 3-1 win over Switzerland in the opening game for both countries in the Olympic tournament.

After the game, Swiss forward Julien Sprunger, who had his fourth and fifth cervical verterbrae fractured on a hit from behind by Backes at last year’s world championship, said he thought he heard Backes threaten him during the game.

“He said something to the effect of ‘I’ll do it again to you if you want,’” Sprunger told ESPN.com

But Backes denied the allegation.

“I think I told him to keep his head up when he was running around a little bit,” said Backes. “I always take as a compliment when other teams are yelling at me, it means being a force and getting a few good chances. There was no reference to that.

“I was pretty distraught it happened the first time. You don’t ever want to hurt anybody. He’s a good player, obviously, and I’m glad he’s back on the ice. We had a good battle today and had a few good run-ins. I don’t think I’d stoop that low to dig my fingers or salt into that wound.”

The controversy followed a hard-fought effort by the Swiss, who will play Canada Thursday.

The Americans also got goals from Bobby Ryan and Ryan Malone (on the powerplay), who beat Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller. Roman Wick, a 2004 draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, beat American goaltender Ryan Miller.

Backes scored his goal on a dash up the left wing after a good save by Miller. Playing with a plug in his left nostril after taking a stick in the face on the first shift of the game, Backes cut around Habs farmhand Yannick Weber and then stuffed the puck by Hiller at the far post to make it 2-0 six minutes into the second period.

“Surprised the Swiss defenceman? I surprised myself,” said Backes. “I’ve got a big frame and I just tried to keep the defender on the inside and then once I had the corner, it was just get to the far post quick as I could and throw it in there as hard as I could and I saw it go past his pad. It was pretty cool.”

“It’s all for a cause and winning as a team first. Anyway I can help out, I’m willing to do that. We’ll take the victory and put it in our back pocket, but we need to be better against Norway and a lot better against Canada.’

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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