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Red Wings top Sabres 3-2 in OT

by John Kreiser

The crowd at Joe Louis Arena gave a warm pregame reception to Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, a Michigan native, Michigan State alum and the MVP of the Olympic hockey tournament.

They were even happier when the Sabres' game against the Detroit Red Wings ended the same way the Olympic gold medal game did -- with Miller's team losing in overtime. Brian Rafalski, Miller's teammate on the U.S. Olympic squad, scored a power-play goal 31 seconds into overtime to give the Wings a 3-2 victory over the Sabres on Saturday night.

"Every point is crucial," said Rafalski, whose four goals helped get Team USA to the title game. "I'm glad we got two."

Miller's parents had divided loyalties -- Ryan's younger brother Drew is a forward for the Wings.

"Actually, they're probably happy with the result," Ryan Miller said. "Drew's team needed the points more than we did and we still got a point."

Detroit blew an early two-goal lead but went home with two points and sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of idle Calgary. The Wings start a three-game trip with a visit to the Pengrowth Saddledome on Monday night.

"It was a huge win," said Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 24 saves.

The Red Wings have won five of seven since the Olympic break -- but one of the losses came on Tuesday at home against the Flames.

"We owe Calgary after they embarrassed us in our own barn in the third period," Howard said. "We'll be ready."

Wings coach Mike Babcock is feeling better about his team.

"We've won five of seven now and done a pretty good job," Babcock said. "We just got to continue to find a way to get better. We had good tempo in our game early, we had all our lines going. It was a good night for us."

The Sabres are 3-3-1 since the Vancouver Games.

Detroit took advantage of a power play in the extra period when Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers cleared the puck over the glass and was called for delay of game.

"Got to have a little more focus and bear down and make sure it goes of the glass," Myers said.

Rafalski's slap shot from the left circle beat Miller on the short side for his first game-winning goal this season.

The Red Wings got off to a great start against Miller, scoring on their second and third shots of the game.

Pavel Datsyuk scored at 2:02 and Patrick Eaves made it 2-0 at 3:15. Jochen Hecht got one goal back at 7:05, then banged a rebound past Howard 5:30 into the second period to get Buffalo even.

Miller bounced back from his rough start to make 34 saves.

"He doesn't get frustrated or rattled," Rafalski said. "He's a big goalie and a big-time goalie."

Miller fell to 1-2 against his younger brother in the NHL.

"It was fun," Ryan Miller said. "He had a couple of good chances."

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

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