Miller was the target of some tough questions after allowing eight goals on 59 shots as the Philadelphia Flyers won Games 2 and 3 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But he answered any doubters by stopping all 32 shots he faced Wednesday night, backstopping the Sabres to a 1-0 win that evened the series at two victories apiece.
"I guess I know I was being called out," Miller said after his second 1-0 shutout win in the series. "I'm not going to pay too much attention to anyone that's talking about my game right now, I really don't care. It's the furthest thing from my mind.
"I want to contribute and help the guys win. I have to do certain things, I have to talk on the ice. I have to move the puck in the zone. I don't have to listen to all the B.S. that's out there from people who don't know how to play goalie."
Thanks to Miller Buffalo, which needed to win 15 of its last 24 games just to make the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, and the second-seeded Flyers will go back to Philadelphia for Friday's Game 5 all even.
Miller stood especially tall in the third period, including a one-on-one showdown in which he robbed former teammate Danny Briere, who had the puck and was all alone just outside the crease. Briere tried a couple of dekes, but Miller stayed with him and snared Briere's quick snap shot in his catching glove.
"I kind of recognized he didn't have a lot of speed because of where he received the puck. He was trying to get me to open up and I just wanted to get that glove as close to his blade as I could," Miller said. "It wasn't so much a reaction as it was anticipation that he was going to try and get it over me."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff praised his goalie, who weathered a furious storm as the Flyers played with an extra attacker in the final minute.
"He was excellent, I thought, obviously," Ruff said. "He had to make a couple of really big saves for us. I thought the first 30, 35 minutes, we did a really nice job, and then we got a little bit loose with the puck. That Briere opportunity was about as good as it gets."
Miller had to be perfect to outduel Brian Boucher, who was making his second start of the series after taking over from Sergei Bobrovsky in Game 2. Boucher shrugged off taunting chants from a raucous crowd at HSBC Arena to stop 28 of 29 shots. He had no chance on Jason Pominville's first goal of the series midway through the first period.
Pominville had a wide-open net and wasted no time snapping home a cross-crease pass from Rob Niedermayer after a blind backhand passout by Tyler Ennis.
Both sides struggled to get any offense from their power-play units as the teams combined to go 0 for 9 with the extra man.
The Flyers trailed Buffalo 1-0 with 8:50 left in the third period Wednesday night when Danny Briere, a 34-goal scorer during the regular season, found himself all alone in front of Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller – so alone that it looked like they were the only two people on the HSBC Arena ice.
Briere shifted one way, then another, trying to get Miller out of position. Miller wasn’t biting. Finally, Briere made one more quick move and tried to lift the a quick wrist shot over Miller – only to see the puck end up in his former teammate's glove. (WATCH THE PLAY)
"I just wanted to get my glove as close to the play as I could," Miller said. "It wasn't so much the reaction as the anticipation that he was going to try to get it over me."
A few minutes later, Miller had his second 1-0 victory – and the Sabres were even with the Flyers heading into Game 5 in Philadelphia on Friday.
If the Sabres go on to upset the second-seeded Flyers, Miller's save – and Briere's inability to score on such a wide-open chance – may go down as the turning point of the series.
"You have to score on those chances," Briere said. "It was a good save by Ryan."
Miller made a lot of good saves – he stopped all 32 shots he faced. But it was the stop on Briere that made the difference.
Briere said he may have had "too much time to think, and the fact that I was at a standstill" was a problem.
"Usually we're used to coming in with speed, moving your legs and going one way or the other,” he said. “But I couldn't really make a move because I had no speed. I just tried to make a quick move and get it up, but I couldn't really go around him. I had to try to get it through him. I wish I could have it again."
-- John Kreiser
Buffalo wasted an enormous opportunity to extend its lead early in the third period after Flyers captain Mike Richards took a five-minute elbowing penalty with three seconds left in the second. The Sabres managed only two shots before Richards returned to the ice to earn jeers from their home crowd.
"I wanted to boo too, actually -- deep down I wanted to go ‘come on, someone make a play,' laughed Ruff. "There were some young players that didn't make good plays, but there's a lot of pressure in that situation, so I'm OK with it."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said despite the loss, he was also OK with how his team played.
"There were a lot of positives tonight," he said "It's always frustrating when you don't score and lose the game 1-0.
"There were a lot of opportunities tonight. Offensively, it seemed like we had the game down there and just couldn't get it by (Miller)."
Some bad blood that first percolated with a confrontation between Miller and Daniel Carcillo boiled over after the final buzzer when a scrum involving nearly all the players on the ice resulted in four penalties at the 20-minute mark.
Ruff said he expected that edginess to carry over for the rest of the series.
"I think it was a war when we left Philly and it will be a war when we get there tomorrow and it will be a war when they come back here," he said. "That comes with the ante being upped when you get later in a series and emotions really start running and it's just part of the game."
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