For Tim Thomas, Turco's solid showing against the Ducks means the veteran netminder might actually be able to get some rest. For Bruins coach Claude Julien, it means maybe a few less restless nights worrying about his goaltending.
The Bruins didn't really know what to expect from Turco on Sunday. His only previous start with the club had ended in disaster in Tampa back on March 13, when Turco had to be yanked after allowing three goals in the first 4:31 of play.
But Turco had worked diligently in practice since, trying to regain his form after a year away from the NHL and waiting patiently for a shot at redemption. That came Sunday, when Julien finally had no choice but to give Thomas a break after appearing in 15 straight games and with the Bruins playing their second game in as many nights.
"Just watching him in practice," Julien said of how he knew it was time to give Turco another shot. "When he first came to us, we needed him right away, so we gave him an opportunity to play in Tampa. But as the weeks went on he really worked hard and you could really see him getting more comfortable in his game. The amount of games Tim's played, I thought it was a good time for Marty to come in and give us a hand. He responded well, played a real solid game for us. And that's exactly what we needed right now."
Turco was more than solid. He stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced from the Ducks, making a number of key saves to help the Bruins take a 3-2 victory and end their West Coast trip with two straight victories. Turco was tested early, but rose to the challenge, then came through as the Bruins withstood a furious late push from the Ducks to close out the win.
"We got some good goaltending from Marty," Julien said. "A guy who hasn't played much this year and we needed him to help us out and he did a great job."
Turco has played 541 games in the NHL over 11 seasons, and Sunday's win was the 274th of his career. But it was his first in over a year after spending this season playing in Austria after going unsigned as a free agent last summer.
"It's been a while," Turco said. "You're playing a game like this under those circumstances, it's tough mentally. You want to do well, but at the same moment you've got to just focus on the task at hand. Fortunately I've been around a while to figure that part out. I got into the game pretty quick and the guys played great, let me see a ton of shots."
Turco was signed earlier this month after Tuukka Rask suffered an abdominal and groin tear. With top Providence netminder Anton Khudobin also out with a wrist injury, the Bruins were desperate, and signed Turco. It was a tough situation for Turco, and even though he was sharp in his Bruins debut with 20 saves on 22 shots in relief of Thomas in Pittsburgh on March 11, the struggles in his first start two nights later were somewhat predictable considering the circumstances.
"It could be pretty daunting to be honest," Turco said. "It's not an ideal situation. I got the call and wanted to come in here and play hard for these guys and reward them for the opportunity I was given. It certainly didn't go that way [in Tampa], but when you have a belief system and you're around a good group of guys like this, especially with a winning attitude, it makes it a lot easier. The guys picked me up pretty good. It's been a while since [that game]. You get back in there. You do the work, and that makes you feel better and confident. The preparation was there, and [Sunday] we got some results."
The results should be enough to give Julien the confidence to use Turco a bit more down the stretch. Khudobin has also returned to action in Providence and could be an option for Boston in its final seven games. Turco is not eligible to play in the postseason, so Khudobin will likely serve as Thomas' backup until Rask is ready to return and the Bruins may want to give him a taste of NHL action in the regular season before that.
But whether it's Turco or Khudobin, the Bruins will need someone to give Thomas a couple of nights off before the season ends. Thomas has turned things around of late, going 3-1-0 with a 1.48 GAA and .946 save percentage in his last four games after going just 2-5-0 with a 4.26 GAA and an .830 save percentage in his first eight appearances after Rask was injured.
Thomas keyed Boston's Cup run last spring and will be counted on once again this year in the postseason, but the Bruins need to keep him healthy and rested to get him there in the first place. Turco's performance Sunday gives them just a little more confidence that they should be able to do that.
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