Miller stops 36 shots in Sabres' 3-2 win over Hurricanes
Buffalo Sabres Marcus Foligno (82) celebrates with Zemgus Girgensons, Christian Ehrhoff, and Alexander Sulzer after Ehrhoff scored the game winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Buffalo won 3-2. (AP / Gary Wiepert)
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2014 6:16AM EST
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Ryan Miller was more concerned about overcoming jetlag than thinking about providing a memorable send-off in what could potentially have been one of the goalie's final games for the Buffalo Sabres.
A little over a day after returning to Buffalo from the Sochi Games, and with his future uncertain, Miller stopped 36 shots and even contributed to the offence with two assists in a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night in the NHL's first game after its Olympic break.
"I wasn't really getting to far ahead or thinking about that kind of stuff," Miller said when asked about his future.
Before the game, general manager Tim Murray acknowledged he's shopping the goalie with the intention of dealing him before the league's trade deadline on March 5. Miller is on the block because he's in the final year of his contract, and Murray is unsure whether the 33-year-old is prepared to re-sign with a team that's rebuilding through youth.
"I'm trying to take the approach to take things as they come right now and be positive and play hockey," Miller added. "It's a lot of fun to play and win. I'm going to try to enjoy these kind of moments where you can help make a difference."
Despite feeling "a little bit goofy" from jetlag, Miller was certainly the difference by stopping the first 20 shots he faced in a game in which Buffalo was outshot 38-18.
"It just shows what kind of goaltender we have in Ryan Miller," interim coach Ted Nolan said. "I don't think we had too much reason to say we were the better team tonight outside of Ryan Miller stealing that game for us."
Christian Ehrhoff scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with 44 seconds left. Tyler Ennis also scored for Buffalo, which snapped a four-game skid, and won for only the third time in its past 14 games (3-8-3).
Both of Miller's assists came on Ehrhoff's goals. That made him the NHL's first goalie to have that many since Vancouver's Cory Schneider had two in a 5-4 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Dec. 11, 2010, according to STATS.
Ehrhoff's decisive goal came after he circled the Hurricanes' net, and then stopped and spun in the right circle, where he attempted to feed the puck through the crease to teammate Marcus Foligno. The puck instead glanced off the stick of Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk and floated in over goaltender Cam Ward.
Eric Staal and Alexander Semin scored for the Hurricanes, who lost to Buffalo in regulation for the first time in seven meetings, dating to a 1-0 loss at Carolina on Nov. 18. 2011.
The teams got an early start coming out of the NHL's two-week break. The game was originally scheduled to be played Jan. 9, but postponed after a blizzard hit Buffalo.
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller found little fault in his team's performance.
"Miller was the first star, and there's your answer right there," Muller said. "That was a complete, solid game on our part for 60 minutes. We did everything we had to do."
Everything, of course, except score more than Buffalo.
Miller put on a show.
Early into the second period, he got a piece of Faulk's snap shot from the left circle, and then recovered in time to turn aside Manny Malhotra's attempt to convert the rebound in front.
Miller had Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner looking up to the rafters and shaking his head midway through the second period. That reaction came after Skinner got off a hard shot from the right circle on a partial break, only to have Miller snag it with his glove.
"We had a lot of chances," said Staal, who beat Miller through the legs on a 2-on-1 break. "When it's a close game, you have to be able to bury them. And tonight, Miller made a lot of good saves."
Following the game, Miller spent time surrounded by fans at the penalty box, where he took part in a television interview. He then got a cheer from the few remaining fans inside the arena as he headed to the locker room about 10 minutes after the game ended.
Whatever might happen over the next week, Miller has enjoyed his 12 years in Buffalo.
"I love this area. The fans have always been great," he said. "If it happens that I'm traded, I'm preparing to play somewhere else. It all just comes to it's going to be hockey."