By the time Marty Turco entered a game for the first time as a Bruin, Boston was already trailing by three goals and had lost one of its top defensive defensemen to injury. The club’s best defensive forward would go down as well just 22 seconds after Turco took over.
It wasn’t exactly the scenario the veteran netminder would have drawn up for his Bruins debut, but he made the most of the opportunity despite the adversity.
Turco stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced in the final two periods of Sunday’s showdown in Pittsburgh. There wasn’t much he could have done on the two goals he allowed, and he made several stops a guy 10 days removed from playing in the Austrian League probably had no rights to making.
It wasn’t enough to help the Bruins to victory. The shorthanded squad couldn’t derail the march of the Penguins, who took a 5-2 decision for their ninth straight victory in a game that saw the Bruins lose Adam McQuaid and Patrice Bergeron, as well as rookie Max Sauve, to injury.
Those losses will hurt if they are sidelined long, but the Bruins may have also found something in Turco. Bruins coach Claude Julien had been hesitant to throw Turco right into the mix, opting instead to stick with Tim Thomas since Tuukka Rask was injured last weekend.
Thomas has started all five games since, including back-to-back outings Saturday and Sunday. But Thomas had little left in the tank for this one, certainly not enough to make up for the sloppy play of the shorthanded defense in front of him as Thomas gave up three goals on just 10 shots in the opening period in Pittsburgh.
Julien had finally seen enough, and it was time to see what Turco could do. The switch was made to start the second period, and Turco helped keep Boston competitive the rest of the way.
“It’s a little of everything,” Julien said of the decision to change goalies. “I think it was a good opportunity for Marty to go in at the beginning of the second period. He skated a bit this morning for about 20 minutes, so he was warmed up. And when you’re down by three goals against Pittsburgh, you kind of give a guy an opportunity.
“We wanted to see how ready he was, and I thought he did a great job,” Julien added. “Certainly he gave us a chance when he was in net. Tim’s played a lot lately, so it was probably an opportunity for me to give him some rest and let Marty take over.”
Thomas has been the workhorse for the Bruins most of the year, and he’s carried the entire load in net by himself since Rask went down with an abdominal/groin injury. But the extra work has only served to exacerbate the struggles Thomas has had of late.
Thomas has not been in his usual dominant form for more than two months now. Since a 4-1 loss in Dallas on New Year’s Eve, he’s just 13-12-0 with a 2.85 GAA and a .901 save percentage. But even those pedestrian numbers have risen considerably since being asked to take on extra work with Rask out. Since Rask’s injury, Thomas is 2-4-0 with a 3.75 GAA and an .849 save percentage.
The Bruins need to give Thomas some time off, and if Turco’s first taste of action with Boston is indicative of what he is capable of doing, Julien just may be able to give Thomas some of the rest he requires.
Turco looked sharp from the start of his outing. He couldn’t be faulted much on the two goals he allowed, with Chris Kunitz scoring on a point-blank one-timer off a perfect crossing feed from James Neal and Pascal Dupuis scoring on a clean breakaway.
But Turco also made a number of big saves to keep the Bruins in the contest for most of the final two periods. He robbed Jordan Staal with an acrobatic save as the Penguins center had a bid alone in front and also denied Joe Vitale on a breakaway. Turco also displayed an ability to handle and pass the puck to help the Bruins’ transition game, a skill that is not a strong part of the arsenal of either Thomas or Rask.
Having seen what Turco can do over the final 40 minutes of Sunday’s contest, Julien should have a little more faith in being able to use him in upcoming games and keep Thomas a little more rested for what the Bruins hope will be a lengthy playoff run.
“It gives me a pretty good idea [of what Turco can do],” Julien said. “Obviously he moves the puck pretty well. He’s a competitor. He was in there and he was giving guys life on the ice and talking a lot. You could see he was excited to be back and playing. I liked the way he came in into a tough situation and the way he handled it.”