Ryan Miller got bigger cheers than Sidney Crosby before Tuesday night's game at Mellon Arena -- and he didn't even step on the ice. But just as happened two days earlier, Crosby's team went home with the win.
Miller drew huge cheers when he was introduced before the Buffalo Sabres' game in Pittsburgh, honoring his performance for Team USA at the Winter Olympics. Crosby, who beat him in overtime to give Canada the gold medal, drew noticeably fewer.
Miller then got the night off as the Penguins got a goal and an assist from Ruslan Fedotenko in a 3-2 win that continued the Sabres' pre-break slump. The Sabres remained one point behind Ottawa for the Northeast Division lead despite losing their seventh in eight games.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Miller deserved a night off after the emotionally draining two-week Olympic tournament in which Miller was chosen MVP. Crosby was a little tired following a late-night return to Pittsburgh on Monday, but hasn't had a post-Olympic letdown -- yet.
"It's not bad, [despite] going on a long flight and getting here and getting right back in the swing of things," Crosby said. "I'll try to manage my rest as we go along here, but I felt all right considering all that.'
Crosby played 17½ minutes, about four minutes fewer than usual, and assisted on Sergei Gonchar's 200th NHL goal.
"I probably could have played more, but we had all four lines going and played a good, solid team game," Crosby said.
The pro-Olympic buzz created by the memorable Canada-U.S. game was evidenced by the standing ovations given Miller and Crosby during pregame introductions -- and, for perhaps the first time in his career, Crosby drew fewer cheers than an opposing player. The ovation given Miller was noticeably louder and longer.
Twice when replays of Crosby's game-winner were shown on the Mellon Arena scoreboard, there was perceptible booing -- not that Crosby scored, but because the U.S. lost.
The Penguins lost three of their final four before the Olympic break, all in overtime or a shootout, before beating Buffalo for the third time in four games.
Fedotenko gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead at 11:03 of the third -- a goal the Penguins needed after Derek Roy scored with 4:39 remaining on a shot that wasn't originally ruled a goal. The puck entered and exited the net so quickly that the officials did not signal a goal until after a video review.
"I must have been the only guy in the building who thought it went in," Roy said.
Gonchar, who played for Russia during the Olympics, put the Penguins up 1-0 with a shot from the top of the slot during a power play at 14:58 of the first, with Alex Goligoski and Crosby assisting. Pascal Dupuis made it 2-0 at 3:13 of the second, taking Fedotenko's pass along the goal line and beating Patrick Lalime inside the near post.
"I saw in the corner of my eye [Dupuis] going to the back door there and I was trying to kind of wrap it around," Fedotenko said. "I threw the puck on net and it ended up right on his stick."
Toni Lydman made it 2-1 less than three minutes later with a one-timer from the top of the left circle that beat Brent Johnson. Lydman played for bronze medalist Finland in Vancouver.
"Physically it wasn't that big of a deal but maybe mentally it's a little more draining than a usual regular season game," Lydman said of the Games. "But you can't blame it on the break, they had some guys who played in the tournament, too."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|PPG - Sergei Gonchar (9) ASST: Alex Goligoski (21), Sidney Crosby (37)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Pascal Dupuis (14) ASST: Ruslan Fedotenko (15), Evgeni Malkin (45)|
2 - 0 PIT
|Toni Lydman (2) ASST: Patrick Kaleta (4), Craig Rivet (12)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Ruslan Fedotenko (9) ASST: Tyler Kennedy (11), Kris Letang (20)|
3 - 1 PIT
|Derek Roy (17) ASST: Patrick Kaleta (5), Chris Butler (19)|
3 - 2 PIT
|Craig Rivet Roughing against Chris Kunitz|
|Sidney Crosby Slashing against Craig Rivet|
|Tim Kennedy Boarding against Max Talbot|
|Kris Letang Holding against Thomas Vanek|
|Brooks Orpik Hooking against Thomas Vanek|
|Thomas Vanek Hooking against Chris Kunitz|
|Ruslan Fedotenko Hi-sticking against Patrick Kaleta|
|Mike Rupp Fighting (maj) against Paul Gaustad|
|Paul Gaustad Fighting (maj) against Mike Rupp|
|Sergei Gonchar Interference against Tim Connolly|