PITTSBURGH It wasnt the way Marty Turco wanted to break in with the Bruins, but at least the Boston coaching staff knows the 36-year-old has still got game.
Turco made his Bruins debut and got into his first NHL game in nearly a calendar year when Tim Thomas was yanked to start the second period in a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday afternoon.
His last NHL appearance was in relief for the Blackhawks last year on March 17, and he became the first goalie other than ThomasRask to appear in the Bruins game since Manny Fernandez on April 11, 2009.
Turco entered a 3-0 game to start the second period with the Bruins killing off a leftover penalty a fairly low-pressure situation given it appeared the game was already lost. Turco came in and made 20 saves over the final two periods with his scrambling, athletic style, and gave the undermanned Bs a chance to get back into the game. It was an encouraging first step for a goalie that will need to perform well over the next month of hockey.
He moves the puck pretty well. He was moving around a lot and talking quite a bit on the ice, and giving the guys some life. You could tell he was excited to be back out there playing, said Claude Julien. I like the way he came into a tough situation and the way he handled it.
Turco was at his best making a sprawling, double-stacked stop on a Jordan Staal partial breakaway in the second period, and then flashing a quick glove hand on an Arron Asham screamer in the final 20 minutes. He also showed a skill retrieving the puck and starting the Bruins transition game with crisp passes from the crease, and thats something that isnt exactly second nature for Thomas and Rask.
Turco was happy to make his Bs debut, but he wished it had been under more joyous circumstances.
My job is to be ready to get in there. My general sentiment is that it felt good to get back in there and play again, said Turco. But I always maintain that I play to win. Thats usually the final things I look at. So it was disappointing. We played hard and created opportunities to close the gap, but we couldnt. Weve got to figure this out quick.
Ive been playing this game a long time and crazy things can happen. The perspective Ive gained over the last 16 months or so is that I would be ready to get in there. It was good to get in there. Every minute I was in there I felt more comfortable. I just wish I could have made a couple more save to help the guys gain some momentum.
Instead Turco and the Bruins now find themselves up a mere two points in the Northeast Division with only two games in hand on the Ottawa Senators.
The lead seems to shrink with each passing day and the Bruins cant fully snap out of their midseason funk.
One silver lining: Julien and the Bs coaching staff will feel much more comfortable calling Turcos number to spell a clearly gassed Thomas over the next few games. Thomas now has an .860 save percentage in seven games during the month of March, and its pretty clear playing nine games in a row have worn down a Bruins goalie that hasnt played consistently well since the beginning of January.
There was some thought maybe Thomas had turned the corner when he executed 19 out of 20 saves against the Sabres in an impressive win last week, but the 37-year-old worsened as the back-to-back games unfolded this weekend. Turco should get the Tuesday night start against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and at least give Thomas three days off before potentially coming back against the Florida Panthers. Julien may even decide to give both games to Turco and really put Thomas on ice for a long stretch, but that may be difficult to do given the importance of the remaining 14 games on the schedule.
It was a good opportunity for Marty to get in there today. He skated this morning for about 20 minutes, so he was warmed up, said Julien. We were down by three goals to Pittsburgh, so it was a good chance to see how ready he was. I thought he did a great job. He certainly gave us a chance when he was in net.
Tim has played a lot lately, so this was certainly a good opportunity to give him some rest and let Marty take over.
Unfortunately everybody has become aware of Tuukka Rasks value to the Bruins and to his goaltending partner as Thomas numbers have steadily declined while his playing time has skyrocketed over the last month.