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Lightning 6, Bruins 1

Bruins lacking in shellacking

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / March 14, 2012
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TAMPA - In a season growing ever shorter, the playoffs on the horizon, the Bruins are getting ever worse. And it doesn’t get much worse than it got here Tuesday night for the defending Stanley Cup champs, who suffered a 6-1 shellacking at the hands of the Lightning.

Perhaps worse than the lopsided score, maybe even worse than losing three straight games, the Bruins found they still don’t have an answer for a leaky net. Marty Turco made his first start in a Boston uniform and lasted less than five minutes before Claude Julien summoned Tim Thomas to give some relief to the man who was supposed to provide the tired Conn Smythe winner some relief.

“You can sense fatigue in our club,’’ said Julien, noting that his goalies must be better but refusing to put the blame entirely on his netminders. “That’s our biggest challenge right now. We’re not playing well and fatigue’s creeping in. We have to find a way to right the ship.’’

Turco, acquired after the trade deadline when Tuukka Rask was injured, was driven off the job on goals by Tom Pyatt, ex-Boston farmhand Nate Thompson, and finally Ryan Shannon on a power-play strike at the 4:31 mark.

The Bolts put six shots on net in the opening geyser and three of them eluded Turco, who looked particularly shaky on the Thompson goal. He failed to cover a dead puck near the left post, what should have been an easy glove trap, and his bobble opened the door for Adam Hall to dish over to Thompson for the doorstep strike.

“We can’t blame out goaltenders,’’ said captain Zdeno Chara. “They’ve had our backs so many times this season.’’

Neither netminder was available for comment after the blowout.

But Turco and Thomas were weak Tuesday night, on par with the entire club’s lukewarm readiness from the drop of the puck. The Bruins have given up the first goal in six straight games, nine of the last 11. They fell behind, 2-0, Saturday to the Capitals. Sunday they trailed, 3-0, after 20 minutes in Pittsburgh. It was 4-0 here by the 15:38 mark of the first. It’s not a club that is playing very well right now, and one that plays even worse when it gets behind off the hop.

“It seems good in the room before the game,’’ said Chara, asked if he felt the club’s emotional level is where it must be prior to faceoff. “Everyone is focused. Everyone is ready. But we have to be aware of things on the ice from the get-go. We need to get mad when they do score. We have to play right away the way we can.’’

Thomas, spelled by Turco after the first period of Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh, gave up one goal (Victor Hedman) late in the first, allowing the Bolts to take a 4-0 lead into the break.

Only 3:06 into the second, Steven Stamkos registered his league-best 49th this season, flipping a puck out from behind the right post and watching it deflect off Thomas’s thick stickblade and ricochet into the net. Bolts, 5-0.

Stamkos, a superstar in full bloom, later banged in his 50th of the season - the second time he has reached the coveted plateau.

The five-goal lead, even with 36:54 left to play, was enough for Julien to call it a night, leading him to bring Turco back into the fray. Luckily for the former Blackhawk, he saw only two shots on net for the remainder of the period.

“I told Timmy after the first, if he could hold the fort, then I’d keep him in there,’’ said Julien. “But at 5-0, what’s the point? We got Marty back in there for some more work and Timmy got some rest. That became the priority at that point.’’

The Bruins have lost three straight for only the second time this season, matching their season-worst skid in October, when they opened the season with a 3-7-0 run. They are 12-15-2 in their last 29 games and in real peril of losing their first-place standing in the Northeast Division.

“Everybody has the right intention,’’ said Julien. “Everybody tells you they are ready to go, ready to do a good job. But then three, four minutes into the game you are down by three goals and then you can’t play the game you want to play.’’

At issue now, one Julien must mull before Thursday’s game vs. the Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., is what to do with the cage. Once the Bolts took the 5-0 lead with their 11th shot of the night, they landed only six more on net. If the offense could keep the puck at the far end all night, where they rolled up 31 shots over the final 36:54, that would alleviate much of the problem. But their starts are far too tepid. They didn’t land a shot on Dustin Tokarski until Trent Whitfield’s stuff attempt at 9:25 of the first. The Bolts by then already had the 3-0 lead and had fresh cutlery in hand to feast on the second Boston ’tender of the night.

“We can say some things didn’t go our way early in the first, and that’s true,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who hammered Mike Commodore in the only Boston win of the night.

“But bigger picture, we’re not winning games with only a 40-minute effort. Just not good enough.’’

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.

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