Bend, but don’t break.
Roberto Luongo and the Canucks were a resilient bunch Friday night in Vancouver, overcoming two ugly losses in Boston and outdueling Tim Thomas and the Bruins 1-0 in a pivotal Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.
The two Vezina and Conn Smythe candidates matched each other save-for-save for much of the game, until the Canucks Max Lapierre broke the deadlock with a goal 4:35 into the third period.
“It was not about the shutout. It was about the win,” Luongo said after the game. “I am happy that Max used his skill to put the big goal in and whatever it takes to win.”
Much of the post-game talk surrounded Luongo, who silenced his critics with his second shutout of the final after letting in twelve goals in the last two games.
“Whether it’s 1-0 or 8-1, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. So right now, we’re up 3-2 and we have a good opportunity come Monday night,” he said.
“He’s a competitor,” said defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “He’s not perfect. He’s not a perfect goalie and pucks go in on him but he’s going to battle with everything he’s got and he cares as much as anyone in this room.” he said.
Bieksa assisted on Vancouver’s only goal when his shot ricocheted off the boards to Lapierre – presumably a set-play against the always aggressive Thomas.
“It’s not hard if you’re playing in the paint,” said Luongo of the goal. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does, that’s going to happen.”
Vancouver looked to set the tone early, outhitting Boston 23-13 in the first period and 47-27 overall.
But the Canucks also took three penalties in the first period and had to withstand a barrage of Boston shots on the power play.
Boston outshot Vancouver 12-6 in the first and 31-25 overall.
The Canucks sat defenseman Keith Ballard in favour of 21-year-old rookie Chris Tanev, who looked calm, cool, and collected in his first taste of the Stanley Cup final.
“He could’ve played the game with a cigarette in his mouth,” Kevin Bieksa said of Tanev.
Tanev, who made several great breakout passes, would have had an assist if Tanner Glass hadn’t fanned on an empty net chance in the second period.
The Bruins will now look to re-assert themselves on home ice Monday night against the Canucks – who are now one win away from the first Stanley Cup victory in their 40-year history.