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Luongo overcomes a big obstacle for shutout

by Dave Lozo / NHL.com
VANCOUVER -- There are always obstacles to overcome if a player wants to reach his goal of winning a Stanley Cup. For Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, that obstacle for parts of Wednesday night was 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds.

In an effort to obstruct Luongo's vision, the Boston Bruins placed mammoth defenseman Zdeno Chara at the top of Luongo's crease during the power plays. It didn't have the desired effect, as Luongo was flawless during the Canucks' 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena.

Luongo made 36 saves -- including 12 with the Canucks shorthanded -- and many of those came while trying to look around Chara.

A big body trying to make life miserable for Luongo is nothing new. During last year's playoffs, Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien -- all 6-5, 265 pounds of him -- was impossible to move from the front of Luongo's net.

But even that couldn't compare to what Luongo faced Wednesday.

"It's not the same. Zdeno is a bit bigger," Luongo said. "On the first power play, it was a bit tough to find the puck. But once they got another one, I was able to make a few adjustments, able to see the puck better. He's a big body, but at the same time we decided that it's best if we just leave him alone and let me take care of him."

The Bruins and their beleaguered power play that was just 5-for-61 entering the Stanley Cup Final received a four-minute advantage when Daniel Sedin was called for high sticking four minutes into the game. Despite their struggles, they went to work pressuring Luongo immediately.

Just 13 seconds after the power play started, Luongo had to stop a deflection from Chara from in tight. The Bruins got seven more shots on goal in the next 3:47, but Luongo stopped all of them.

"He was our best penalty killer," captain Henrik Sedin said. "That's the way he has to be."

With the game still scoreless at the start of the second period, Luongo was asked to hold the fort when the Bruins had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:32. He did just that.

Luongo turned aside a wrister from Nathan Horton, then stopped David Krejci and Milan Lucic from point-blank range before making one final save on Mark Recchi.

"There were a lot of shots on net (during power plays)," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "We're doing our best to let him see those shots, but there's a big monster in front of him. It's tough to move that guy. They're going to get there shots through traffic. I thought we did a pretty good job of getting to the rebounds."

Luongo concurred with Bieksa, but admitted Chara's placement in front of the net is a unique challenge.

"Typically, I like to look over the guy's shoulder. In this case it's going to be impossible to do that," said Luongo, who isn't exactly small at 6-3. "I have to change that a little bit. I thought as we moved along in the game, we made some good adjustments as far as making sure that the shots come from the side and not from the middle so I can see better."

"When they're on the power play, yeah, they don't have that great a percentage, but they're a very good power play and they get a lot of chances," center Ryan Kesler said. "Lou had to make some pretty good saves. After the first couple power plays, we kind of figured out what they were trying to do."

In a game where Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas matched Luongo save-for-save until the final seconds, Luongo needed to be perfect. When did Luongo know that was going to be the case?

"Probably the drop of the puck in the first period," Luongo cracked.

With Chara parked in front of him most of the night, that was one of the few things Luongo can say he saw coming.


Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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