ARLINGTON, Va. -- Ryan Miller was one of the biggest reasons the United States came within one goal of claiming the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The Buffalo Sabres goaltender was the named the most valuable player in the tournament for his stellar play, but the final, indelible moment of the overtime loss to Canada in Vancouver remains.
"I haven't come to terms [with it]," Miller said. "We went there to win."
Miller joined 47 other American hopefuls at the United States Olympic orientation camp Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and while much of the media focus was on the forthcoming competition for the three goaltending spots on the U.S. roster that will travel to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it was also a time for Miller to reflect on the experience in 2010.
The gold medal showdown between Canada and the United States was an instant classic and earned the right to be considered one of the best hockey games ever played. The final sequence, like other famous goals in hockey, is already iconic -- Jarome Iginla passed the puck from the corner to the right of Miller to Sidney Crosby as he cut toward the net, and with a quick flick the Pittsburgh Penguins captain etched his name in Olympic lore.
"It's not the best memory," Miller said. "I played that whole tournament pretty aggressive. In my mind I was going to be aggressive with shooters. I thought I was going to catch him off guard with the puck in his skates, and he caught me off guard by kicking it right to his stick.
"He's a great player and made a smart decision. I, in hindsight, didn't make the right decision, but I was playing aggressively the whole tournament and told myself I wasn't going to sit back and let things happen. I made the aggressive move and I got caught and that's the way it goes."
Miller's numbers in the tournament were incredible -- a 1.35 goals against average and .946 save percentage in six contests, including a group-stage victory against Canada and a semifinal victory against Finland.
"Well, I say this with no disrespect to the other goalies there, but Ryan Miller played an unbelievable tournament," Peter Laviolette, an assistant to coach Dan Bylsma for the 2014 team, said. "He was phenomenal. I don't think it is right for him to burden that responsibility alone. There is a team that took the ice with him, they played as a team, they won as a team and they lose as a team.
"Could someone have done something else different five shifts before, a period before, that shift, that play? Goaltenders are always the last line of defense and unfortunately they get hammered with a lot of those questions about how did this goal go in. But the bottom line is there are lots of goals that go in, and somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. Ryan Miller did his job and played extremely well for the United States in that tournament."
Miller made 36 saves in the final game, and allowed the Americans to rally from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime. None of the plaudits, however, could completely ease the sting of the final goal
"I think everybody in that room, we knew we could win, and it just didn't work out," Miller said. "It's very disappointing – it still is to this day. It's a source of pride and at the same time, it's not a sore subject for me anymore, but it's definitely bittersweet."