Miller Stands Tall In Big Win
Friday, 04.27.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
April 27, 2007
By Brian Wheeler
Jaromir Jagr was right, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Miller isn't God. But the netminder did create a victory out of a loss in Game Two of the Sabres best-of-seven series against the New York Rangers.
New York gave the Sabres all they could handle, out shooting Buffalo 22-9 in the opening 40 minutes of play and 33-18 for the game, but Miller held the Rangers lead to a single goal long enough for some third period heroics and a 3-2 victory. Buffalo holds a two-games-to-none series lead as they travel to New York for Game Three on Sunday (NBC, 2 p.m.).
"I don't know how many unbelievable saves [Miller] made today just to keep us in the game," said Dainius Zubrus, who finished with a game-high nine hits. "The save he made right in the slot with a few minutes to go ... I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that."
Miller didn't leave anything to doubt concerning his ability to keep Buffalo within striking distance when his team was putting forth a less than stellar performance. The third-year netminder finished with 31 saves, including the sliding stop on Jagr that left Zubrus in awe and a beautiful glove save on Paul Mara's one timer from the corner in the final 90 seconds.
"When we started to gamble a little bit, we gave up some pretty big opportunities, and he stood tall for us," said head coach Lindy Ruff of Miller's play. "We needed those saves. You look to your goaltender first when you are struggling like that."
"It was another tight game and I'm just glad to be on the winning side," said Miller.
Chris Drury tied the game with a deflection 24 seconds into the final frame and Thomas Vanek tacked on the game winner with 10 minutes remaining. Buffalo is 12-1 in franchise history when leading a series two-games-to-none.
"Coming out of the break, we just talked about having a good five minutes," said Drury. "We got one right away and it certainly energized the bench a little bit."
"It's a huge win for us, but at the same time, we need to realize that we cannot play like that," said Zubrus. "We were not all that good in the first two periods and Ryan kept us in the game and gave us a chance."
New York took their first lead of the series on their first power play of the night.
Martin Straka fired a point shot through traffic that extended his points streak to three points (1+2) in as many games at 10:08 of the first.
But just 50 seconds later, Buffalo answered with their second goal on the man advantage during the series.
Brian Campbell received an across-ice feed from Tim Connolly at the top of the right face-off circle and launched a precision shot over Henrik Lundqvist's right shoulder for his third goal of the playoffs, and second on the power play, at 10:58.
"[New York] did an excellent job in their own end," said Ruff. "There was nothing there. They did a good job defensively against us, and if you are being limited, you've got to take some of those average shots and get some traffic."
Mara scored his first goal of the playoffs with a fierce wristshot above the left face-off circle into the top-right corner of the net at 18:40 of the second to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Rangers.
The Sabres first shot of the third period finds the back of the net and opens the door for the win. Drury deflected Toni Lydman's one-timer from the right post to register his fifth goal of the playoffs and tie the score 2-2 at 0:24.
"All of a sudden, you can't nurse that one-goal lead," said Ruff referring to New York. "It was great for us and it does harm to them and their psyche."
A change in Buffalo's lines pays dividends with the game winner.
Drew Stafford replaced Maxim Afinogenov on Derek Roy's line and the rookie rewarded Ruff confidence. Controlling Campbell's pass by the right post, Stafford set Vanek up on the doorstep with a no-look pass. The Austrian buried his fifth goal of the post-season into the top-right corner of the net and extended his scoring streak to seven points (5+2) in six games at 10:11.
"That was a good line for us down the stretch and I just thought with [Stafford's] size down low that we might be able to hang on to a few more pucks," said Ruff. "It turns out that you get lucky sometimes."
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