By Allan Dowd
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was expecting a titanic duel against Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas from the drop of the opening puck in the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday.
He was right. But Luongo will be mightily relieved to have won the first battle, turning aside all 36 shots he faced in Vancouver's 1-0 Game One victory.
Thomas only missed one of the 34 aimed at his net from the Canucks, but that came with only 19 seconds left in regulation in a dramatic finale to the series opener.
"I had a feeling we were going to go to overtime and play for a little while here," said Luongo, who was between the pipes when Canada won Olympic Gold at the 2010 Winter Games in the same arena.
"As the game was moving along, obviously there wasn't a lot of room. But when saves needed to be made, we were both making them," Luongo said.
Luongo and Thomas are two of the NHL's top netminders, but employ far different techniques. Luongo uses a more classic butterfly style to stop shots while Thomas utilizes a far more unorthodox acrobatic approach.
It was Luongo who had face the early pressure, when the Canucks took a four-minute penalty in the first period. But he was able to work around attempts by massive Boston captain Zdeno Chara to screen his view.
Thomas turned in some dazzling saves, but admits he was forced out of position in the final seconds when Jannick Hansen was in primed to shoot but instead fed it to Raffi Torres to fire in the winning strike.
"I didn't even know the guy cutting to the net was there," he told reporters.
(Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing John O'Brien; To comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)