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Canucks Play of the Week: Luongo stones Sutter on a late-game penalty shot

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The Canucks Play of the Week is a weekly feature that breaks down the best play from the past seven days. This week: with less than two minutes left in regulation time, Roberto Luongo stops Brandon Sutter on a penalty shot to preserve a point against the Penguins.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Game: Canucks @ Pittsburgh Penguins

Date: October 19, 2013

The Play:

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The breakdown:

I won't break down the play that led to the penalty shot being awarded, because it is a gong show of poor defending by Dan Hamhuis and Chris Tanev. Here is how the penalty shot unfolded:

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Sutter cuts slightly to his left, so that he can get Luongo moving left-to-right as he shoots. Luongo starts out of his crease to take away the angle.

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As Sutter bears down, Luongo is well out of his to cut down the angle and is in good position to react to a shot. There's not too much to shoot at, so Sutter's best bet is probably to deke here and hope to catch Luongo out of position as he backs into his net...

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... but Sutter instead tries the shot, and Luongo makes the save with ease. It's pretty difficulty to beat a goalie, especially one of Luongo's size, on a straight shot when he is cutting down the angle so well. Maybe Sutter was hoping to catch Luongo dropping to his knees and puck the corner - if so, he failed at this attempt. While not the most spectacular save, this was an excellently played penalty shot by Luongo from a technical standpoint and as a result he made the save look easy.

The significance:

Usually the POTW showcases a pretty or important goal - it's just the nature of determining which plays stick out in a given week that goals will dominate. This week, however, I want to give some love to our goalie, Roberto Luongo - for a save he made in a loss, no less.

Aside from obviously preventing a goal on a high-percentage scoring opportunity, why was this penalty shot so significant? Well, for starters it came with just 1:24 remaining in the third period of a 3-3 tie. If Sutter scores here, the Penguins almost certainly win the game in regulation and the Canucks earn no points. This save gave the Canucks a chance to play overtime and, while they couldn't get it done in a shootout, to at least earn a loser point. It might not seem like much now, but if the Canucks are in a tight race for a playoff spot or division crown in April, this point could loom very large.

It is also worth noting that this is Luongo's second save on a penalty shot this season, having previously stoned Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens. For a goalie who is not know to be particularly strong in shootouts, this is an encouraging sign - as was his performance in the eventual shootout, where he stopped shootout wizard Jussi Jokinen and superstar Sidney Crosby before finally being beaten on a ridiculous move by Evgeni Malkin. If Luongo can continue to be strong in the shootout the Canucks should be able to pick up a few extra - and valuable - points throughout the season.