The Bruins dropped a 5-3 decision to the Penguins Tuesday before 17,535 at TD Garden. That wasn’t their primary concern.
Their worries centered around the condition of Johnny Boychuk. At 6:45 of the third period, Boychuk departed the Garden ice with his arms draped around the shoulders of Chris Kelly and Brian Rolston. Boychuk placed no weight on his left leg, which he had clanged into Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham during an awkward check. Coach Claude Julien said the collision took place on the side of Boychuk’s leg.
“Those kinds of injuries, you’ve got to kind of let the night go by,’’ said Julien. “The next day, you have a better idea. We’re keeping our fingers crossed right now that it’s not bad news. That’s all we can hope for right now.’’
After the loss, Boychuk limped out of the dressing room. He will be re-evaluated Wednesday.
The Bruins can ill afford to lose their No. 3 defenseman. To open the first round, Boychuk would have been on the second pairing, most likely alongside Andrew Ference, his playoff partner from last season. Boychuk is the team’s hardest hitter and owns a rocket of a slap shot.
Now, whether Boychuk will even be available for the start of the opening round is in question.
“Seeing that happen, I instantly thought there’s only two games left. In about 8-9 days, the playoffs are going to start for this group,’’ said Marty Turco. “He’s a great player for this team. We saw what he possessed for this team last year in the playoffs. He’s a big body, big shot. He played great and helped stabilize this D. It’s the reason why they have plus- in goal differential. That’s what makes this team tick. It’s never good. I’m not sure what the diagnosis is at this point. Hopefully he’ll be able to play in the playoffs sooner rather than later.’’
It is a coach’s nightmare scenario. The Bruins are locked in to the No. 2 seed. They were playing a club that dressed Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Kris Letang, their big guns. The Bruins’ first objective was to survive the remainder of the regular season without losing any bodies.
“You don’t have a choice,’’ Julien said. “Malkin and Crosby are in tonight from their end of it. Letang’s in, and he’s had his fair share of injuries. You’ve got to play. This is our job. We’ve got to do our job. There’s no doubt you want to minimize ice time. You’d like to keep guys out. But you can’t keep them all out. It’s something that happens. You’re going to try and avoid it. You do the best you can.’’
If Boychuk has to miss time, the Bruins have some options. Assuming good health for everybody else, Joe Corvo and Mike Mottau are projected to be healthy scratches to start the playoffs. As a right-shot defenseman, Corvo could be the first option.
Of all the players who could understand Boychuk’s situation, it is Turco. The veteran goaltender might have made his final start as a Bruin. Turco is not eligible to play in the playoffs because he signed after the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
Turco, staring down the deadly Pittsburgh assault, saw five pucks hit the back of the net, two on the power play.
Crosby led the attack with two goals and one assist. Letang assisted on three goals.
The score was tied at 2-2 in the second. Benoit Pouliot and Milan Lucic scored to wipe out a 2-0 deficit.
But the Penguins broke through with two power-play strikes within 48 seconds to take a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes. Asham and Rich Peverley traded goals in the third.
“It’s been tremendous,’’ Turco said of his month with the Bruins. “I’ve been around for a bit. I can’t say that disappointment’s been much part of my time here. I’ve been fortunate to have an opportunity. I’m truly grateful for my family and I for what the Boston Bruins gave me when things seemed pretty bleak. You want to play great. You want to show them and anyone else. For the most part - days, games, practices, being a good teammate - I felt pretty proud of my time here so far.’’
It has not been determined whether Turco will remain with the club during the playoffs to serve as a practice goalie.
If his time is up, Turco filled a need when Tuukka Rask went down and Providence goaltender Anton Khudobin was unavailable to come up to relieve Tim Thomas. In five appearances, Turco went 2-2-0 with a 3.68 goals-against average and an .855 save percentage. Turco has not decided on his plans for next year.
“The thing that really eats me when I lay down at night is what can I do for my teammates?’’ Turco said. “I worked like a dog to give these guys ample good goaltending in practice right to the end for guys who weren’t playing or wanted to stay out late. I cherished that role for many reasons. It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. It would have been nice to win this one tonight. No matter what, being a Boston Bruin and part of this group, I’ll be going out on a high no matter what.’’