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Miller makes 49 saves to help Sabres stop Capitals

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Ryan Miller made 49 saves and Steve Ott scored in the sixth round of the shootout to give the Buffalo Sabres a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals at First Niagara Center on Sunday.

Ott beat Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer with a wrist shot over the shoulder to help the Sabres improve to 5-0-1 in their past six games at home. He was the only participant to score.

"The benefit of shooting later in the shootout is I got to see a lot of the guys, and [Grubauer] was constantly taking a lot of low net away from the guys that shot," Ott said.

"He seemed like he was back in his net, so deking him, is what I usually like to do, wasn't there. I found one, and [Miller] shut the door the rest of the way."

Miller's 49 saves were a career-high for the 11-year veteran, who is a candidate to make the U.S. Olympic team.

"He played fantastic tonight, you have to give him credit," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "Both goalies played good, 50 shots, lots of Grade A [chances], [six] chances in the shootout to win it, just needed one. You have to give him a lot of credit. He was the man tonight."

Miller is 3-0-0 in games in which he faced 50 or more shots.

"The team didn't steal the game, Ryan Miller stole that game for us," Ott said. "That's the difference is how world-class he was tonight."

Miller stopped all six shots he faced in the shootout, including saves on Capitals forwards Alex Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski attempted a spin-o-rama against Miller but shot the puck off the side of the net.

"He does that spin move, it's hard to recover," Miller said. "I didn't know quite where it hit. I'm just trying to get back and keep my body as much in the way possible and it looked like it spun off his backhand. Those moves get close to stopping the puck, and I'm not really sure how much I like them, but I'm just a goalie."

Drew Stafford gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 18:18 of the second period. He tipped a Christian Ehrhoff shot from the half-boards past Grubauer. It was Stafford's fourth goal of the season.

"Get to the net," Stafford said. "I know Christian's going to make a play to get it to the net there, a nice little wrister. It doesn't have to be the big, windup slap shot."

The Sabres' goal came on their 10th shot of the game. The Capitals outshot the Sabres 30-11 through two periods and 50-17 in the game.

"Imagine if [Miller] gave up rebounds, they would've had over 100 shots," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "His rebound control, his whole game, you could tell he was tuned into it very early. You could even see it when he won it in [the shootout], he pumped his fist. When he's on, I don't think there's much better."

Capitals forward Troy Brouwer tied the game 5:34 into the third period when he put a slap shot past Miller for his eighth goal of the season. Grabovski set up Brouwer's goal after forcing a turnover by Ott.

"We needed to get a point here," Brouwer said. "It's a tough building to play in. I know they've been struggling as a team for a little while here, but they've been getting better. They play good hockey. They're a tough team to play against."

The Sabres came close to ending the game in overtime when Ehrhoff drove the net and put a shot on Grubauer that popped loose through the crease, but the puck rolled away untouched.

"It's OK; you've got to face shot-by-shot and not looking at the clock how much time goes by and I didn't get a shot," Grubauer said. "Just see it as a break, a little break."

The Capitals' NHL-leading power play went 0-for-2. Grubauer stopped 16 shots.

"You're upset, you're mad because you didn't win the game, but at the same point, you have to be happy the way we played," Brouwer said. "We came in here, we can't hang our heads and be disappointed in that game. We played like we did tonight, we'll win a majority of our games. Tonight, bounces didn't go our way and pucks didn't go in. We have to leave here being happy with how we played but not the outcome."

The Sabres go on the road to play the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. The Capitals continue on the road against the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

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