VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks are so close they can almost taste that champagne they hope to sip from the Stanley Cup.
It could happen as soon as Monday night, when the Canucks will have a chance to finish off the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden, end four decades of frustration and hoist that elusive silver chalice toward the heavens.
The Canucks rebounded beautifully from a couple of ugly games in Boston, getting a goal from Maxim Lapierre at 4:35 of the third period and shutout goaltending from Roberto Luongo to beat the Bruins 1-0 Friday night at Rogers Arena and grab a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Monday's game will mark just the second time the Canucks have played in a game with a chance to win the Cup. They lost Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final 3-2 to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"It feels great," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who banked a shot off the end boards to set up Lapierre's goal. "We're trying to stay really focused. We have one big game left. We'd like to go finish it there. That would be a great feeling. We get two kicks at it, but obviously we'd like to finish it the next game."
That next game goes Monday, when pretty much the entire province will shut down hoping to see the Canucks make history. Game 7, if necessary, would go Wednesday at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks were a much different team than the one that lost Games 3 and 4 in Boston by a combined score of 12-1. Luongo bounced back wonderfully from two rough outings at TD Garden and for most of the night it was a goaltending duel between him and Tim Thomas.
Luongo stopped 31 shots to register his fourth shutout of the playoffs. The other three all came in Game 1s.
None were as big as this one.
Under the microscope after surrendering a dozen goals in Boston, Luongo prepared for Friday night's game the same way he did for Game 7 of the first-round series against Chicago. He went for a solitary walk on the Stanley Park seawall.
"I don't know if they have any seawalls in Boston, but I'm going to look for that," he said. "I put my hoody on and my headphones, and I don't know if anybody said anything (to me). I can't hear. But I just focus on the journey and everything I need to do to be ready for the game and that's what gets me prepared."
Lapierre scored when Bieksa's shot from the right point intentionally sailed wide, bounced off the end boards and out around the other side where the Canuck centre was positioned. He snapped a quick shot that just barely trickled by Thomas and the fans at Rogers Arena, and undoubtedly all around the province, went absolutely crazy.
"I'm just trying to put it off the wall and hope it gets a bounce," Bieksa said. "Obviously, I'm not a geometry whiz so I didn't know exactly where, but I was hoping it would bounce somewhere near the front of the net. Behind the net, in front of the net, who cares. It bounced to our guy."
"I just think I'm lucky I had the chance to come play for this team," said Lapierre, who was acquired at the trade deadline.
Luongo drew laughter in his post-game media session when he was asked how difficult those bank shots off the end boards are for a goalie.
"It's not hard if you're playing in the paint," Luongo said. "It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out and aggressive like he (Thomas) is, that's going to happen. He might make some saves that I won't, but in a case like that, we want to take advantage of a bounce like that and make sure we're in a good position to bury those."
-- Postmedia News