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Miller Rebounds in Game Five

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Playoff hockey is all about riding out the highs and lows of a seven game series. After a disappointing 5-4 loss at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Buffalo Sabres did just that and rebounded with a shutout performance on Sunday to take Game Five, 3-0.

"It was a pretty quick turnaround for the low to high for me," said Ryan Miller. "No matter how (Game Four) could have turned out - if it went to overtime or not - maybe they still win that game."

In Miller's mind, Game Five was all about forgiveness. Mentally, he needed to regroup after a sub par performance on Friday, and did so with his first career post-season shutout.

Easing into the opening period didn't hurt either. Miller faced just three shots in the first - Philadelphia didn't record its first shot on goal until the 7:15 mark - before making 24 in the game.

"I just wanted to wash (Game Four) away," Miller said. "Forgive and forget. Forgiving yourself is a big part of playing hockey in the playoffs. You just have to move on."

After allowing a questionable goal in Game Four and Five, some criticism had been leveled on Miller's shoulders and a few detractors were even calling for the rookie to be replaced between the pipes by Martin Biron. Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere - who recorded two assists in Game Five - believes the negativity may have created an increased sense of motivation for the rookie goaltender.

"(Miller's performance) didn't surprise me," Briere said. "Ryan is very competitive and he doesn't like it when he even gets scored on during practice, warm-ups or a game. It wasn't a surprise to anyone that he came back strong tonight. It was almost a good thing when people starting questioning his goaltending in the playoffs after last game."

Briere also thought the criticism may have been unwarranted.

"He gave up one bad goal," continued Briere, referring to RJ Umberger's goal midway through the third period in Game Four that put Philadelphia a 4-3 lead. "I know it was a big goal that changed the momentum of that game, but he's been so good for us all year that I don't think it was fair to question him. At the same time, it all worked out well."

The Sabres now hold a commanding three games to two lead in the series and will travel to Philadelphia for the pivotal Game Six on Tuesday. If Buffalo were to lose Game Six in the Wachovia Center - the home team has won every game of the series - the team would return to HSBC Arena on Thursday for Game Seven. Tickets for that game are on sale now.

"The shutout was secondary to winning the game, but it was a good bounce back game for Ryan," said Lindy Ruff. "We've had our problems in their building and we know (Game Six) is going to be a tough challenge."

Crossing the Flyers blueline on the rush, Tim Connolly stickhandled between three Philadelphia defensemen through the slot and snapped a wristshot into the top-right corner of the net for his third goal of the series at 6:05 of the first and gave Buffalo the 1-0 lead.

"(Philadelphia) backed off the line and I was looking to pass it to one side or the other," Connolly said. "They read that and took away the passing lanes, so it left me open for the shot."

JP Dumont gave Buffalo a two-goal lead with his third power-play goal of the series.

With just 47.4 seconds remaining in the second, Briere cut around a diving Denis Gauthier to the left post and feathered a pass to Dumont on the right wing. Dumont's one-timer marked the fourth time in the series that Buffalo had led by a pair of goals or more.

"We knew it was going to be the toughest game of the series, but coming back into our barn with our fans, we had the advantage," said Connolly.

Off another nice feed from Briere, Maxim Afinogenov scored his first goal of the series and Buffalo's third of the night.

Carrying the puck towards the net, Briere slid a centering pass to Afinogenov, who was cutting down the slot, for the easy redirect at 4:50 of the third.
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