VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Every other scoring tactic had failed over the last three games, so Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa made something up. He deliberately put a shot wide of the net in Game 5, knowing Boston goalie Tim Thomas couldn't stop himself from reacting to it.
The next moment was a study in hockey geometry. The puck caromed off the boards behind Thomas' net to the far side, where Maxim Lapierre gratefully banged it into the only sliver of net Thomas couldn't cover.
That's how goals are scored against two goalies who look unbeatable.
That's why the resourceful Canucks are one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Lapierre scored the only goal with 15:25 to play, Roberto Luongo stopped 31 shots in a stirring shutout after getting pulled from his last game, and the Canucks took a 3-2 series lead with a 1-0 victory over the Bruins in Game 5 on Friday night.
Bruins win Stanley Cup
"It's not hard (to stop) if you're playing in the paint," said Luongo, who rebounded after allowing 12 goals in just over four periods in Boston. "It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out that's going to happen."
Ouch. With just a few days to go, even the goalies are getting chippy in these fantastic finals.
Game 6 is Monday night in Boston, and the Stanley Cup will be there.
Luongo was pulled from Game 4, but coach Alain Vigneault stuck with him for Game 5. The Olympic champion was only occasionally spectacular, but he still narrowly outplayed Thomas, who has received just two goals of support from his teammates in three games in Vancouver.
"There was something about him before the game," Bieksa said. "He just seemed so comfortable, so confident. He was vocal, and usually he's not a vocal guy. We thought it would be something special."
Neither team found an offensive flow in a Game 5 nail-biter, but Luongo kept Vancouver in it until Lapierre's goal set off a crazy celebration among tens of thousands of fans thronging downtown Vancouver. After Vancouver's Tanner Glass missed a backhand on an open net one period earlier, Lapierre was more than ready to put it behind Thomas for just his second goal of the postseason, pumping both fists frenetically in celebration.
"I hope I was trying to miss the net, because I missed it by about 8 feet," Bieksa said. "I didn't have a real good angle to the net, so I just put it up there and got a good bounce."
Lapierre was a late-season acquisition who largely serves as an agitator for the Canucks, not a scorer. He's never managed more than 15 goals in a season, and he had just six this season while playing for Montreal, Anaheim and Vancouver.
"It's been six months I'm thinking about a goal," Lapierre said. "We got lucky. Good bounce. It was challenging there for us, right spot at the right time."
Thomas made 24 saves in Game 5, but lost his shutout streak of 110 minutes, 42 seconds dating to Game 3. With injured forward Nathan Horton's jersey hanging in the visitors' locker room, the Bruins' power play regressed to its previous postseason struggles, going 0 for 4.
"Those are usually the kind of goals that go in when no one is scoring," Thomas said. "A lot of times it's going to be that fluke one off the boards, and Lapierre didn't even get the shot off clean. If he got the shot off clean, I would have been able to read it better and would have had a better chance at it."
The Canucks hung on for their sixth straight home playoff victory since May 7. The home team has won every game in the series.
"I don't know how to explain it," Boston forward Milan Lucic said. "Especially in a series where you don't have home-ice advantage, you've got to find a way to win at least one game on the road if you want to come out on top, and for some reason we haven't been able to."
"We've been through this, I don't know how many times," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We're not a team that's done anything the easy way, so in a way, it's not a surprise we're here."
In the last 21 times the finals were even going to Game 5, the winner went on to claim the Cup 15 times - yet Colorado (2001), Tampa Bay (2004) and Pittsburgh (2009) all overcame Game 5 losses to win it in the past decade.
Luongo receives more criticism than almost any goalie with his level of accomplishment at hockey's most elite levels, yet he has shown resilience throughout the postseason. He came back from a one-game benching in the first round against Chicago with a 2-1 victory in Game 7, and Vigneault unhesitatingly stuck by Luongo in the finals, ignoring widespread trashing of his $10 million goalie after Boston's 8-1 and 4-0 home wins.
Live Extra: Los Angeles' Tyler Toffoli sneaked a backhander past Antti Niemi, leveling the score after San Jose's Dan Boyle netted a power-play goal less than two minutes into the game.
PHT: Detroit scored four unanswered goals to top Chicago 4-1 on Saturday. The Western semifinals are now level at one game apiece. Game 3 is on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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