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After absorbing loss, Turco not a beaten man

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / March 15, 2012
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SUNRISE, Fla. - Marty Turco, hired on to be the pause that refreshes in the Boston net, bombed worse than a flat bottle of Coke Classic in his first start for the Bruins Tuesday night in Tampa.

Not even 24 hours later, following a brief workout here, the veteran backstop sounded confident that he can still provide the support needed for Tim Thomas to take some needed breaks and for the scuffling Bruins to get their season back on track.

“I’d rather be part of the solution than part of the problem,’’ said Turco, whose first start back in the NHL was only 4:31 old when coach Claude Julien hooked him with the Bruins already in a 3-0 deficit. “Some guys would want to crawl under a rock, I guess. I don’t. I love the challenge.’’

No better place for a challenge these days than the bumbling Bruins, who have lost three straight games, five of their last seven, and lately have shown a disturbing, defeating penchant for giving up first-period goals. The Capitals took a 2-0 lead in the first on Saturday. A day later, the Penguins potted three in the first against Thomas, which led to Turco relieving him to start the second. Thomas took over after Ryan Shannon made it 3-0 in the first at Tampa, and the two-time Vezina winner gave up one more before the period ended.

Overall, the Bruins were outscored, 9-1, in the opening period of the last three games. They also have given up the first goals in six straight games and nine of the last 11. Goaltending hasn’t been their sole problem, but it has been part of the root cause of their dilemma, a swoon that now has the Senators seriously threatening their standing at the top of the Northeast Division. If the trend doesn’t reverse soon, the Bruins will lose their home-ice advantage for the start of the playoffs, or could even find themselves fighting desperately to avoid a postseason DNQ.

By Turco’s assessment, he easily could have prevented both of Tampa’s first two goals, one a doorstep kick-in by Tom Pyatt at 1:56, the other a doorstep forehander by former Bruins prospect Nate Thompson at 2:26. On the first, Turco faulted his own poor stickwork. On the other, he said, he should have been quicker and more efficient in covering a loose puck near the left post. His poor handiwork in the second led to a quick tap by Adam Hall that gave Thompson 24 square feet of open net to make his deposit.

“To have that kind of start,’’ said Turco, making an audible sigh of exasperation, “I couldn’t draw it up any worse.’’ The only good part about the two gaffes, he added, is that he can clean them up in a “blink of an eye.’’

Thursday night, however, Turco in all likelihood will have both eyes fixed on Thomas, who figures to be the starter against the Panthers and who is also in dire need of righting his game. Julien had him spell Turco until the 3:06 mark of the second period, when he gave up the 5-0 lead on what was meant only as a Steven Stamkos pass out from behind the right post. Instead, the relay kicked off Thomas’s stick blade and went into the net. In hopes of preserving Thomas’s energy for the game here, Julien then summoned Turco back into the action.

“Not sure,’’ said Turco, “but I don’t think I ever got inserted [into a game] twice like that.’’

Thomas on Sunday made his fifth straight start before Turco, who spent this hockey season playing in Salzburg, Austria, before signing with the Bruins, took over for the second. After giving up three goals on 10 shots in Pittsburgh, Thomas allowed two more on five shots by the Lightning. His save percentage over his last six appearances has been .839, a steep fall from the record-setting .938 he posted last season when he won his second Vezina in three seasons.

“A bad start, and not a great game overall,’’ said Turco, assessing the parade of horribles in Tampa. “With me, personally, it was disappointing. But part of the gig, part of the job is to get up in the morning and wipe the slate clean. I want to give Tim a break and give him a chance to get back on his game.’’

Big concern

Approximately a half-hour into the workout, at 12:38 p.m., Zdeno Chara put a heavy hit on fellow big man Milan Lucic in the corner, the two monoliths tumbling down in a heap. Practice stood still while the pair slowly picked themselves up and shook it off.

“Who won?’’ said a smiling Lucic after the workout, returning a reporter’s question. “Not sure . . . I think the boards lost.’’ He added that he took the brunt of the collision to his left shoulder, banging head and shoulder into the boards.

Added newcomer Brian Rolston, sitting next to Lucic in the dressing room, “I thought, ‘There’s two guys we can’t lose.’ There’s a lot of mass there.’’

Julien was relieved to see the two big men smiling only moments after the pileup.

“The way our luck’s been, you kind of worry at first,’’ said Julien. “But they looked at each other and laughed. That’s the way it’s been, though . . . as soon as someone falls, you think the worst - and that’s not helping us right now.’’

Looking ahead

Sidelined by a wrist injury, Providence goalie Anton Khudobin has been on the ice with the WannaBs, but hasn’t handled any shots. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said late last week that he would like the Russian stopper to join the varsity late this month and ideally get some game action before the playoffs begin.

Turco, per NHL rules, cannot suit up for the Bruins in the playoffs, because he was not added to the roster prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline. With Tuukka Rask injured, Khudobin figures to be backing up Thomas when the playoffs start.

“I would suspect in short order,’’ said assistant GM Don Sweeney, asked how soon Khudobin will take shots. “But we’ll err on the side of caution. It will be the appropriate time.’’

Bergeron takes a pass

Patrice Bergeron, who shook off one injury to play in Tampa, was hors de combat again for Wednesday’s workout.

Bergeron, who suffered an unspecified lower-body injury Sunday in Pittsburgh, was hit in the back of a leg with a puck in Tampa, said Julien, leaving the stalwart center slightly hobbled and off skates.

“Just a maintenance day for Bergy,’’ said Julien, noting the injury was not related to the one he sustained in Pittsburgh. He then went on to characterize Bergeron as an “ultimate warrior’’ and “character player’’, grouping him in that category with Chara.

Bergeron won an eye-popping 20 of 27 faceoffs vs. the Lightning. Trent Whitfield, an emergency call-up for the game at Tampa, skated in Bergeron’s spot during practice with Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin his wingers. Marchand has gone a meager 1-1-2 in his last nine games. The Little Ball of Hate’s game has been quite calm.

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

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