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Luongo save made OT win possible

VANCOUVER -- It was a game the Canucks controlled throughout, yet they somehow found themselves in overtime with the Los Angeles Kings buzzing around their net.

A long shot from Kings left wing Ryan Smyth was stopped by Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, but the rebound deflected into an area that made 18,810 screaming fans at GM Place go quiet.

The puck found its way to Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, who had an empty net and a victory in Game 1 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal just 15 feet away. The bouncing puck ricocheted off his body and toward the gaping net, and it most certainly would've counted.

But Luongo, down but not out, somehow made the save.

It didn't have a lot of speed, but the puck still wasn't completely stopped by Luongo's blocker, which didn't make contact with the puck until it was already past him. Down on his belly with the puck spinning toward the net, Luongo swept it off the goal line with his catching glove, keeping the score tied at 2-2 with 13:35 left in overtime.

A little more than two minutes later, Mikael Samuelsson scored his second goal of the game to give the Canucks a 3-2 victory and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"After I made the first save on Smitty, the puck jumped up and hit their guy in the leg, and as it was coming back on goal, I knew I got a piece of it," said Luongo, who made 25 saves. "But I felt I didn't get the whole thing. So as I looked back, it was coming right on the line there, so I was able to react and swipe it out of there.

"It's just a reaction. You're so focused on the game that it just comes natural to react that way and not to panic."

Samuelsson, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Luongo's save, was on the ice when it happened.

"I was really close to that. Almost too close," Samuelsson said of the save. "It was a great save where he never quit, he never gave up on that play."

It was the type of save that could change a series. It also kept the Canucks from becoming the latest higher seed to lose its series opener. Of the six games played before this one, four were won by the road team. Only third-seeded Buffalo and fourth-seeded Phoenix – a team not many had beating fifth-seeded Detroit -- avoided defeat.

But thanks to Luongo, Vancouver got through Game 1 unscathed.

"That was unbelievable," Canucks winger Alex Burrows said. "It gave us a chance to win the game. And that's the kind of player he is. He's going to step up in the big games. That was definitely a big save for us."

While the Canucks were gushing over the save, Kings coach Terry Murray -- not surprisingly -- had a less descriptive take on it: "Great save. Good players make good plays."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL