VANCOUVER – They call it home ice advantage for a reason. After outscoring the Vancouver Canucks 12-1 in Games 3 and 4 in Boston, the Bruins failed to find the back of the net, losing 1-0 in Game 5 from Rogers Arena. Roberto Luongo out-dueled Tim Thomas in the goaltender’s battle, earning a shutout while Maxim Lapierre scored the game’s only goal to give Vancouver a 3-2 series lead heading back east.
“Both goalies were exceptionally good. Both made some big saves,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “We had to be better, and create more traffic, and make better decisions when we have outnumbered situations.”
In a game with limited offensive chances, it came down to one goalie having to be perfect, and that goalie was Luongo. The Canuck netminder made incredible saves at crucial times, bouncing back from two subpar road games that saw him pulled in favor of back up Corey Schneider in Game 4.
“We didn’t [test Luongo enough,]” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I think a lot of the things that you saw tonight are a lot of the things that you saw in the first two games. Good effort, not good enough. Give credit to the goaltender – he played well tonight, but we certainly didn’t make it as hard on him as we did in the last two games at home.”
As for Lapierre playing the unlikely hero, Chara was unsurprised that the winning goal came from a depth player.
“That’s the way it is. You’re going to get goals from other guys in the playoffs,” said Chara. “Guys that are not the biggest goal-scorers in the regular season, they start to produce in the playoffs.”
Critical to the Bruins’ loss was the power play. After finding a rhythm on home ice, Boston went 0-for-4 and had trouble setting up with the man advantage. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s penalty killing was inspired.
“They came at us hard on the P.K.,” said Bruins forward Michael Ryder. “It’s all about us bearing down and making sure we make hard crisp passes. We’ve got to bounce back on the power play. It’s a matter of us matching their work ethic and out battling them.”
With both goalies playing at the top of their game, and both defenses limiting chances, the winning goal was going to have to be a blue-collar style effort. With the Canucks bringing pressure into the Bruins’ zone, Kevin Bieksa fired a shot wide of the Boston net. Lapierre picked up the rebound off the end boards, and put it past a sprawling Thomas.
“Thomas plays far out, and their Ds block shots,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “Sometimes all you have is a short-side shot. It took a bounce the right way, right to the other side. Max was able to find the back of the net.”
As for Luongo, he blamed the game-winning goal squarely on the style of his rival goaltender.
“It’s not [a hard save] if you’re playing in the paint,” said Luongo. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like Thomas does, that’s going to happen.”
After the goal was scored, Vancouver played conservative hockey for the rest of the third period, and rode out the clock to a victory.
But Boston has reason to be optimistic heading back to Beantown, where their opponents have looked like a completely different team than on the west coast.
“The Canucks feed off their crowd,” said Bruins forward and Vancouver native Milan Lucic. “It seems like we’ve always done things the hard way, and [winning the next game] is something we have to dig deep to do. You work hard all year long to get to this point. We just have to look at Game 6 as an opportunity to get one step closer. We’re looking at it in a positive manner. We have to do whatever we can to come back to Vancouver.”