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Caps spoil Miller's big night with 3-1 win over Sabres

by John Kreiser

The Washington Capitals upstaged Ryan Miller hero's welcome.

Miller received a long, loud ovation from the sellout crowd at Buffalo's HSBC Arena on Wednesday, his first NHL game since Sunday, when he was named MVP of the Winter Olympic tournament after leading Team USA to the silver medal. But after receiving a 45-second pregame standing ovation from the hometown fans, he was unable to help the Sabres shake out of their slump. Mike Green got the tie-breaking goal midway through the third period as the Capitals beat the Sabres 3-1 on Wednesday night.

Washington won in its first post-Olympic game after dropping its last three before the break. It was the Sabres' eighth loss in nine games.

"It's all about who's going to crack in their system first," a frustrated Miller said. "If you don't commit to it, if you don't accept it, you're not going to win consistently. Early on in the season, we totally bought into it. We got great opportunities. We won games. Now we're just looking for an easier way to play our system -- but it doesn't exist.

"Our system is built to be worked at. It becomes difficult to sustain sometimes over the course of a whole season. But for the most part, we should have the energy coming off a break like this."

Miller was brilliant against Alex Ovechkin and Co., stopping 37 of 39 shots. It wasn't enough.

"It's frustrating," said Miller, who didn't play in Buffalo's 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. "It comes down to attitude. The attitude can't be, 'We hope we're going to win, we hope we're going to do our jobs so we don't get yelled at.' It's got to be take control, dictate play and trusting the system."

Green broke a 1-1 tie at 10:28 of the third period when he came late and one-timed a shot past Miller from the slot.

Jason Chimera opened the scoring when he deflected Jeff Schultz's shot from the right point past Miller at 15:23 of the second period. Jochen Hecht tied it exactly 60 seconds later when he picked up a loose puck in the right circle and snapped a shot past Jose Theodore.

That was the only shot to get past Theodore, who made 23 saves and was at his best in the closing minutes when the Sabres pressed for the tying goal before Boyd Gordon rolled a 150-footer into an empty net with 41 seconds remaining.

"When you play against a guy like Miller, you know he's not going to give up too many goals," Theodore said after improving to 11-0-2 in his last 13 decisions. "It was a real tight hockey game, and I'm really happy with the way we got the win."

Theodore made a pair of excellent saves in a 20-second span with about four minutes to play, stopping Chris Butler's point-blank shot from the slot and smothering a close-in try by Matt Ellis.

"He makes the saves, and that's what wins you the big games," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's what Miller does for them, and that's what we got from Jose."

The Sabres spent much of the first 2 1/2 periods giving away the puck and allowing odd-man rushes to the Caps, who forced Miller to make a number of spectacular saves.

"We're concerned about the way we played defensively," forward Jason Pominville said. "We're not going to win a lot of games when we score one goal, but we're not going to win many games the way we gave up opportunities either."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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