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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
It was a goaltending performance that likely will not be soon forgotten in Western New York.

Ryan Miller readies to stop Dannny Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers late in the third period in Game Four (Photo: Getty Images)
In need of a win on home ice to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole in their best-of-seven series against Philadelphia, the Sabres got the goal they needed from Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller took care of the rest in front or a raucous crowd that gathered both inside and outside HSBC Arena Wednesday night.  Buffalo came away with a 1-0 victory to even the series at two games apiece.

Miller stopped all 32 shots he faced to notch his second 1-0 shutout of the series. In doing so, he joined Bob Sauve and Dominik Hasek as the only goaltenders in Sabres history to pick up two shutouts in one playoff series.  Miller also became the first netminder to post a pair of 1-0 wins in the same series since Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff did it against Detroit during the 2004 postseason.

After the Sabres began the final period with a five minute power play that came up empty, Philadelphia spent much of the remaining time attacking the Buffalo zone.  Miller finished with 11 saves in the final 20 minutes, including two highlight-reel stops.  Minutes after shutting the door on a point-blank opportunity by former Sabre Danny Briere, he made a diving stick save on Mike Richards.

“We did seem to handle ourselves pretty well.  It was a good battle,” Miller said.  “I think we were desperate, and that’s what you want to come out during playoff time is that desperation.  It’s a good answer because I thought we did look a little bit nervous on that five-minute power play, I think we were just trying to get through it, but knowing that we put everything we could into defending, and everybody putting themselves on the line, hopefully that can make everybody feel good.”

4/21 - Ryan Miller Interview

Fans once again packed the Party in the Plaza during Game 4 (Photo: Bill Wippert)
The big saves brought the fans to their feet each time, but Miller said the key for him was being able to move on to the next play as soon as possible.

“I just try and get rid of it as quick as I can and re-focus knowing that it’s going to be a new opportunity, new circumstances coming at me again.  But it is nice to be there for the guys when they need help, knowing that they’re trying to do the same for me,” Miller said.

While Miller stopped everything that came his way, Head Coach Lindy Ruff pointed to the timely saves by Miller that ultimately made the difference.

“He’s had a couple games in this series where he’s been outstanding,” said Ruff.  “We stayed away from some opportunities as a team that makes it tough on a goaltender, but we needed probably four or five big saves and he gave them to us.”

4/21 - Lindy Ruff Interview

Room For Improvement: With the series now evened up at two games apiece, Ruff sees room for improvement at both ends of the rink as the series shifts back to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Friday.

“Like I said, we wanted to stay away from certain situations in the game that I thought got away from us in Game 3.  I didn’t think we made smart enough decisions on the walls, which we had been a real good team at.  But after we made a bad decision, we reacted the right way.  We stayed in the middle, we made sure to keep them to the outside, but we put some pucks where we had no support, and that kept us in the zone for a while.”

Ruff added that it will be important to finish opportunities, referring to Tyler Ennis’ breakaway attempt and Patrick Kaleta sliding into the net when Thomas Vanek was on a rush.

Series Heats Up Heading into Game 5: The tempers on both sides flared toward the end of Game 4 as several scrums broke out after whistles.  There was also some grappling after the final horn that resulted in minor penalties to Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, Richards and Kimmo Timonen.  According to Gerbe, physical play like that is expected in a long series.

Tyler Myers
“You play each other so much, I’m sure there’s some hatred there.  Things get emotional there at the end and you want to stand up for yourself and compete there, and both ends are doing that… I think you try to make a statement at the end after a loss or something and try to carry that energy over to the next game,” he said.

Myers was asked if the emotions that boiled over at the end of the game would carry over into Friday’s game.

“I think the battle level of both teams is going to rise for Game 5 and the atmosphere in the building is going to be as crazy as it has been and we’re expecting a huge battle from them,” Myers said.

Gerbe added, “I think we know it’s going to be a tight game.  At least that’s the approach you have to take to it.  You can’t have any turnovers and it’s a new game. There’s going to be a lot of emotion and energy going into the game.  Obviously both teams want to get the lead in the series, and it would be huge to do that, but we’ve got to just focus and play period by period.”

The winner of Game 5 will hold a huge advantage in the series, and as such, Ruff expects it to be even more intense.

“That’s the playoffs. It’s the playoff intensity.  It’s going to be decided by the emotion on the ice and how hard you want to play and how hard you want to compete and how dirty you want to get.  I accept the fact that the emotion is going to be ramped up real high in their game and I want to see what players come to the top of that,” Ruff said. 
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