Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller
's name was left absent from Team USA's roster for the Winter Olympics when it was announced on December 19. The rookie netminder exacted his revenge on Thursday night.
Having defeated Rick DiPietro and John Grahame earlier this season, Miller completed his clean sweep of Team USA's goaltending trio with 21 saves as Buffalo cruised to a 4-2 victory over Robert Esche and the Philadelphia Flyers. In four games against the three, Miller has posted a 4-0 record, defeating DiPietro and Esche once, and Grahame twice.
"Ryan has a great team-first attitude," said Ruff. "I think he wants to prove that he could have been that guy. I think that's only human nature to want to show, when the guy in the other net is one of them, I can be better than him. There's nothing wrong with that.
"There vindication there, but it's also motivation that maybe the next time around maybe he will be the guy."
The capacity crowd of 18,690 in HSBC Arena was well aware of Miller's snub, chanting "U-S-A" following two great saves by the rookie in the second period and then again in the third.
"The fans appreciate the effort that (Miller) has put in," said Ruff.
"It's just flattering they would think enough of me to think that I should be on the team," said Miller, who respects the decision of USA Hockey. "Esche played well and just let one bobble over top in a close game. I thought he did a good job tonight."
As if the chants weren't enough, that mishandle by Esche ended up the game-winning tally.
With eight minutes remaining in the second, Jochen Hecht
fired a wristshot from the right wing that looked to be caught by Esche. As the goalie flung his arm into the air to make the save, the puck flew out of his glove, landed in the crease and deflected off Mike Knuble's skate into the net to give the Sabres the 3-1 lead.
"I thought the win was a good reward for the team for how hard we are working and the way we finished off the last part of our road trip," said Ruff. "That game just spilled into how we wanted to play and I thought we really came out and set the tone.
"We pretty well dominated the game pretty well from start to finish. We could have had seven or eight again tonight."
The Sabres held Philadelphia to just three shots in the first period but trailed eight minutes into the contest off a freak play.
Philadelphia took the 1-0 lead after Petr Nedved found sniper Simon Gagne in front of the Sabres net. Gagne's wristshot hit the crossbar and deflected off Miller's back into the net.
"That's going to happen," said Miller. "You just have to keep moving forward and battling."
Muscling to the front of the net, Taylor Pyatt tied the game three minutes later. After laying a check in the corner, the left wing positioned himself at the top of the crease, collected a loose puck while fending off a Flyer's defenseman, calmly slide to his backhand and flipped the puck over Esche's left pad.
The goal was Pyatt's fourth of the season and first since November 17 versus Washington when he recorded a hat trick.
Brian Campbell gave the Sabres their first lead with a precision slapshot into the top left corner of the net from 20-feet out in the slot at 5:24 of the second.
----------------------------------------- GAME BLOG:
0-1 (12:32): Petr Nedved finds Simon Gagne from behind the Sabres net with a backward pass at the low slot. Gagne snapped a quick wristshot for his 35th goal of the season. Nedved gets the only helper.
1-1 (15:22): Taylor Pyatt collects a bouncing puck infront of the net, pulls the puck to his backhand and flips a shot over Esche's left pad. The goal is Pyatt's fourth of the season and first since November 17 versus Washington when he recorded a hat trick. Paul Gaustad records the lone assist. Period 2
2-1 (5:24): After receiving a nice feed from Derek Roy
on the right wing, Brian Campbell snaps a precision slapshot from 20-feet into the top left corner of the net for his ninth of the season. Roy and Teppo Numminen record the assists.
3-1 (12:18): Jochen Hecht
fires a wristshot from the right wing that looked to be caught by Esche, but the puck flew out of his glove into the air, landed in the crease and deflected off Mike Knuble's skate into the net. The goal is Hecht's 14th of the season. Ales Kotalik and Jason Pominville
get the assists.
3-1 (14:39): The sellout crowd in HSBC Arena begins chanting "USA" following a great save by Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller
. Period 3
3-2 (16:40): Mike Knuble catches Miller's clearing pass and snaps a wristshot past the netminder while he was out of the net. The goal is Knuble's 23rd of the season and is unassisted.
4-2 (19:52): Jason Pominville
scores the empty net goal to finish the game. The tally is his 12th of the season.