VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Tim Thomas is giving a masterful performance in his net during the Stanley Cup finals. He's also doing an excellent job masking the frustration that must be coursing through him.
The Bruins' star goalie has allowed just six goals by the Vancouver Canucks in five games, yet Boston is heading home facing elimination in Game 6 on Monday.
Vancouver moved to the brink of its first NHL title with a 1-0 victory Friday — the Canucks' second 1-0 home win in a series dominated by the home teams. Unless they hold off the Canucks at TD Garden, they won't get one last chance to figure it out.
"The plan was for us to score more than them, which I guess we have, but ..." Thomas said, his voice trailing off.
Indeed, the Bruins have outscored Vancouver 14-6 in the series, but 12 of those goals were in two blowout wins in Boston. The West Coast hasn't been nearly as kind to the Bruins in a series in a series that's been colored by dangerous hits, diving and taunting — but dominated by stellar goaltending from Thomas and Roberto Luongo.
"It's very close," Luongo said Saturday before boarding a plane to Boston. "It's at our fingertips right now. The next two days are going to be very important to stay focused, and come Monday night, we have the game of our lives. We're ready to do whatever it takes to win."
While Luongo has been alternately brilliant and hopeless, Thomas is Boston's only constant in the series, scrambling around his crease in a textbook performance of a goaltending style that won't be found in any instruction manual.
The Bruins won two blowout games at home, but they haven't caught a break in Vancouver.
Thomas stopped 24 shots in Game 5, but he failed to get to Maxim Lapierre's third-period winner, scored off a canny rebound of Kevin Bieksa's shot behind his net. An estimated 100,000 fans in downtown Vancouver's streets erupted in a sea of celebration when Lapierre scored.
Hundreds of those fans turned out at Vancouver's airport on Saturday, standing eight deep behind a barrier. They screamed and waved signs in the terminal while sending off their team.
"This is our chance," captain Henrik Sedin said. "You don't get too many opportunities to finish off a Stanley Cup final, and we have to make the most of it."
Vancouver had won four of its previous five road playoff games before the back-to-back routs in Boston. In a tense Game 5, the Canucks acknowledged they had to resort to trickery and luck just to get one goal against Thomas, who might be the next on a small list of players to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP from the losing team.
Thomas would prefer to win the big silver prize, and he remains confident the Bruins can do it. He hopes Boston can gather momentum back home, where the Bruins embarrassed the Canucks on energy drawn partially from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome's dangerous late hit in Game 3 on Boston forward Nathan Horton, who's out for the series.
"It seems like so far this series, the home crowds have helped the teams," said Thomas, who has a jaw-dropping .971 save percentage in the finals, stopping 165 of Vancouver's 171 shots. "It's not always the case, but going home for Game 6, we hope it's the case one more time."
"We've been through this, I don't know how many times, so it's not something that's new to us," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We've had to regroup all year. I don't think we're a team that's done anything the easy way, so in certain ways, it's not a surprising that we're here in this situation where we've got to bring our team back home and create a Game 7."