VANCOUVER -- Vancouver needed a big game from Roberto Luongo. It got one.
The Canucks had to find a way to solve Tim Thomas. They did.
If they can figure out how to win in Boston, the Stanley Cup will be theirs for the first time in the franchise's four-decade history.
Maxim Lapierre scored early in the third period and the highly criticized, much-maligned Luongo did the rest. He capped his second 1-0 shutout of the Stanley Cup Final with 31 saves in Game 5 on Friday, two nights after getting pulled by coach Alain Vigneault for a second straight forgettable game in Boston.
The Canucks were outscored 12-1 in Games 3 and 4 at TD Garden, but they head back to Boston with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and can celebrate on the Bruins' home ice with a win in Game 6 on Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
The home team is 5-0 in the series. That also happened last year, but Chicago won the Cup by winning Game 6 in Philadelphia.
"It's the Stanley Cup Final, nobody said it was going to be easy," Lapierre said. "We just had to regroup and bounce back, and this is what we did. We were patient with the game plan and we got our break."
They earned that break early in the third period by making the smart play to solve Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, whose shutout streak stood at 106 minutes and seven seconds after two periods.
The Canucks finally took advantage of how aggressively high Thomas plays in the crease and wound up scoring 4:35 into the third period because the Bruins' goalie couldn't get back in time.
Kevin Bieksa's shot-pass from the right point went off the end boards and the puck popped out to Lapierre on the other side. Thomas was challenging the shooter at the lip of the crease as he always does -- except that this time he was burned because Lapierre, standing on the goal line to the left of the net, found the puck on his stick and banked a shot off Thomas and in as the goalie was scrambling back to the net.
The Canucks had tried that play earlier in the game and it didn't work. It was in their game plan to go back to it again.
"He's coming out far so the only way to make him pay is to put pucks off the boards and hope they bounce into the slot," Bieksa said. "I'm trying just to put it off the wall and hope it got a bounce. Obviously (I'm) not a geometry whiz, so I'm not sure exactly where but I was hoping it would bounce somewhere in front of the net. It bounced to our stick."
Thomas said Lapierre didn't shoot it cleanly. If he did, he would have had a better chance to get back to it.
"The way it was, it bounced off my stomach and was a couple inches over the line before I could get a handle on it," Thomas said.
Luongo took a verbal jab at Thomas when he was asked the difficulty of saving the Lapierre shot.
"It's not hard if you're playing in the paint," he said. "It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out and aggressive like he does, that's going to happen."
After showing the Canucks celebrating the goal on the ice, CBC cut to its cameras showing upwards of 100,000 people going bonkers in the streets of Vancouver. The city closed down the area near the CBC building in downtown and invited fans to come watch the game on a big screen.
As you might imagine, they were bouncing up and down when Lapierre ricocheted the puck off Thomas, snapping the goalie's shutout streak at 110:42.
The celebration also killed off some of the tension that permeated through the area all day.
The Canucks left town with a 2-0 series lead and their fans sleeping off a long Saturday night of celebrating. They came home even in the series after getting crushed in two games at TD Garden.
Luongo was under fire. The Sedins were being targeted for their ineffectiveness. Ryan Kesler was being called a no-show.
Now the celebration is on again, the tension relieved. A win in Boston and they'll be planning a parade.
"We play in a hockey market; we get criticized and scrutinized more than anybody I think, but that's what makes us professionals," Kesler said. "We deal with it. We're a tight-knit group in here and we have each other's backs. We're a family and I don't think there is a guy in here for one second saying that we didn't believe in Lu because we all believed in him."
More importantly, Luongo believed in himself, so much so that he had the guts to take a stroll along the city's seawall after the team's pre-game meal Friday. He didn't care that he was being criticized or being called a goat in his hometown; he just put his headphones on under his hoodie sweatshirt and breathed in the fresh air without even worrying if anybody was saying anything to him.
"I just focused on the journey and everything I need to do to be ready for the game," Luongo said. "That's what gets me prepared."
Luongo was at his best Friday.
He had 12 saves through 20 minutes, none better than the two he made on Patrice Bergeron during the third of Boston's three failed power plays in the first period. Luongo adjusted to stop Bergeron's deflection of Dennis Seidenberg's point shot and then had position to stone the Bruins' center on the rebound from the slot.
The Bruins never had another chance like it, and their power play went 0-for-4.
"We knew right away early that we had some chances on the power play and we didn't do the job," Bergeron said. "It's plain and simple."
Bruins coach Claude Julien gave Luongo credit, but added that the Bruins didn't make it hard on him like they did in Games 3 and 4.
"They were the better team," Julien said. "We have to acknowledge that, because if we don't we're not going to be a better team next game."
There's reason to believe they can be. The Bruins not only thrashed Luongo and the Canucks twice in their own building earlier this week, but they're used to going the distance in a series.
Boston won Game 7 against Montreal in the first round and did the same against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals. The difference is that they had the 3-2 lead in both series and knew Game 7 would be at home. Game 7, if the Bruins get there, will be back in the Pacific Northwest.
"I don't think we're a team that's done anything the easy way," Julien said. "We've been in two Game 7s. Our goal right now is to create another one."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl