Thomas portrayed as a wonder and a wanderer
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — He looked unbeatable, like a brick wall on skates, and nothing the Canucks threw his way could penetrate it.
Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final will go down as a 1-0 loss for the Bruins, but it wasn’t because of goaltender Tim Thomas. He was spectacular in a losing effort and has been arguably the best player in this series.
After posting a shutout at TD Garden Wednesday, Thomas traveled across the continent and picked up right where he left off. He allowed just the one goal on 25 shots, and although he may not have faced a lot of rubber, he had to be spectacular.
After parading to the penalty box in the first period, affording themselves only enough time to get off six shots, the Canucks were on the attack for the final two periods. However, Thomas was there.
His best save of the first period came off speedster Mason Raymond. The ice opened up in front of Raymond, but he was unable to beat Thomas, who got his right shoulder on a shot that looked to be labeled for the short side top corner.
He later denied Chris Higgins on a point-blank opportunity in front of the Bruins net.
The Canucks, to a man, didn’t give into speculation the Bruins’ unorthodox goalie was in their heads despite their scoring just five goals through the first four games.
Thomas’s shutout streak came to an end at 111 minutes, 42 seconds when Maxim Lapierre scored at 4:35 of the third period. Lapierre squeaked the puck past a sprawled Thomas and just inches over the goal line to give the Canucks the lead.
Lapierre said afterward he knew Thomas would come out of his crease, like he normally does, to challenge Kevin Bieksa’s point shot. Bieksa’s half-hearted slap shot bounced off the end boards to Lapierre, who flubbed his one-time shot but got just enough of it to score.
“There was a shot from the point, it went wide, bounced out the other side,’’ said Thomas, who unlike after the 1-0 loss in Game 1, was not in a jovial mood.
“Lapierre — however you pronounce his name — he whacked at it towards the net. I think if he would’ve shot it clean, it would’ve given me a better chance the way it was. It bounced off my stomach and a couple of inches over the line before I could get a handle on it.’’
Thomas was ticked after giving up the Lapierre goal.
“I had a pretty good feeling going into the third period, it was almost like overtime,’’ he said.
“I guess I was just frustrated I got scored on. I was doing everything I could not to get scored on.’’
The 37-year-old Thomas was the goat in Game 2’s overtime loss because he was caught too far out of his crease. Last night’s winner was no different.
Thomas was caught just a little too far out and he was unable to get back in time to get a clean play on Lapierre’s shot.
“He does play out and their D’s do block a lot of shots,’’ said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “Sometimes all you have is the short-side shot and I think that was the only lane [Bieksa] had and it took a bounce the right way . . . and Max was able to find the back of the net.’’
The Canucks coach also had the best summation for Game 5’s epic goalie duel, and for the story line of this entire series.
It comes down to goaltending.
“Both goaltenders were just amazing,’’ said Vigneault.
“They weren’t giving up anything and that puck got across the line by just a couple of inches. That’s the game.’’