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MILLER ENJOYING THE MOMENT

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller (Getty Images)
He is leading a charmed life and just maybe on his way to spinning gold.


U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller looked on helplessly as a shot by Sandy Jeannin slipped past him in the third period of the Americans' quarterfinal with Switzerland. Miller flailed at the puck with his stick but didn't connect.

The game appeared headed to a 1-1 tie. But the puck nailed the inside of the far post and caromed back from where it came.

Threat over. Soon, game over. The U.S. was in its first Olympics semifinal since 2002.

"I still don't know what happened," Miller said Wednesday after the Americans won 2-0 on two goals by Zach Parise, one a last-second shot into an empty net.

"Impossible shot from his angle -- or great shot. I spun around. He kind of shot it from right on the goal line. I was kind of concerned about it."

Kind of?

The U.S., playing the role of unlikely favorites three days after upsetting the Canadians, was mired in a scoreless draw for two-plus periods. The confidence that had soared after stunning Canada were ebbing.

"We were close to getting frustrated," said Miller, an All-Star with the Buffalo Sabres in 2007. "But we held tight."

Miller was the glue.

Sure, he faced only 19 shots. But from front line to back, the Americans say their 29-year-old goalie from East Lansing, Mich., is a big reason why this team hasn't panicked on hockey's biggest stage the last two weeks.

When the U.S. looked frazzled while scrambling through the first minutes against Switzerland, Miller soothed them.

Just over three minutes into the game, he coolly threw out his blocker to deny Julien Sprunger's drive from the slot after a bad giveaway by the Americans in their own zone.

Less than a minutes later, he threw a shoulder out to stop Raffaele Sannitz's rising shot, again from the slot when the U.S. defense was caught out of position.

And then, with his team clinging to its 1-0 with seven minutes remaining, Miller gloved a cannon-blast of a shot from Luca Sbisa, who was left dangerously open in the faceoff circle.

After each of those saves, Miller had no expression. Just doing his job.

His only reaction came early in the third period. He was drilled in the stomach with the puck while stopping yet another Swiss drive.

He bent over and was trying to catch his breath when he got a second stroke of luck -- extended stoppage to clean the ice. After a few minutes, Miller resumed what's been his normal business in Vancouver.

He had 42 saves against Canada. He has allowed just five goals in four games, and only two of those have come at even strength. He also has quietly moved this team within two wins of gold.

"I expected the Swiss to counterattack every once in a while," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "But with a goalie like Ryan Miller ... you expect big saves. And we got them."
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