VANCOUVER, British Columbia - With a fortunate bounce and a flawless goalie, the Vancouver Canucks are heading back to Boston with the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Maxim Lapierre scored on a carom off the back boards with 15:25 to play, Roberto Luongo stopped 31 shots in a stirring shutout after getting pulled from his last game, and the Canucks moved to the brink of their first NHL championship with a 1-0 victory over Boston in Game 5 on Friday night.
Luongo helped Vancouver take a 3-2 series lead, posting his fourth shutout of the playoffs and second of the Stanley Cup finals after giving up 12 goals in less than four periods during two blowout losses in Boston.
"There was something about him before the game," said Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who set up the only goal. "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."
Game 6 is Monday night in Boston, and the Stanley Cup will be there.
The Canucks have scored just six goals in five Stanley Cup finals games against brilliant Boston goalie Tim Thomas, yet they're one victory away from winning it all.
"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. ... Tonight was certainly not a good night for our power play, not a good night for our whole team in creating scoring chances."
Neither team found an offensive flow in a Game 5 nail-biter, but Luongo kept Vancouver in it until Lapierre and Bieksa teamed up on a goal that set off a crazy celebration among tens of thousands of fans thronging downtown Vancouver.
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.
"(Luongo) knows that we believe in him," Vancouver forward Alex Burrows said. "He's unreal. We have so much confidence in him, and he doesn't listen to what people outside this locker room say. We know he's the best goalie in the league."
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.
After two scoreless periods of stellar goaltending in which Boston went scoreless on four power plays, the Canucks finally connected with a supremely heady play by the veteran Bieksa, who used Thomas' aggressive style against him.
Bieksa deliberately put a long shot wide of the goal, and when Thomas instinctively moved to his glove side to play it, the puck ricocheted off the back boards straight to Lapierre, who put it behind Thomas for just his second goal of the postseason.
"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.
"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 from there, winning their sixth straight home playoff game since May 7.
If Vancouver can't improve on its last trip to Boston, the finals will go to Game 7 in Vancouver on Wednesday night. The home team has won every game in this series, and the Bruins have won their last five at home.
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.
Boston had three early power plays in Game 5 and controlled long stretches of play, but couldn't crack Luongo. Chris Kelly hit Luongo's crossbar with an early shot, and Luongo made a stunning point-blank save on Patrice Bergeron's rebound shot from the slot during Boston's third power play.