Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sabres-Avs recap

BY JOHN VOGL News Sports Reporter DENVER - Ryan Miller told the referee to watch Ryan Smyth. He kept skating by and brushing Miller's stick, the goaltender said, knocking him off-balance and disrupting his focus. When Smyth did it again on the game-changing play and the ref didn't care, Miller was livid and chased the official. He was still angry after the game, but that's to be expected. After all, it was Smyth who sunk the Buffalo Sabres in the shootout. Colorado used a frantic rally - and a little bump - to earn a 2-1 victory over the Sabres on Saturday. The Avalanche scored with 6:24 left in regulation to tie the game, then outgunned Buffalo in the extra session to drop the Sabres to 6-0-2. The tying goal is what stuck with Miller. Smyth has long been able to skate near the net with impunity, and he did it again Saturday. Replays showed he brushed Miller as a deflected puck came near the goal, and the distracted netminder couldn't catch up. "He did it a few times and I just told the ref, 'Hey, I just don't want the contact. I don't need the penalty, I just don't want the contact,'" Miller said. "When he comes by and twists me out of position ... tipped puck or whatever, that's a slow-moving puck that I would have reached if I'd been set. I have no idea why he's allowed to do it. I had the ice. I was there first. Don't touch me." Miller said the ref simply rolled his eyes when the goalie came to complain. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, while backing his goalie, could simply shrug his shoulders. "It's a great play if you get away with it," Ruff said. Even with the setback, the Sabres had a lot to be happy about it. They had just five defensemen for most of the game, yet they still held the's most potent team to one goal through 65 minutes. The Avalanche is a test for even the healthiest of defenses. Colorado came in averaging four goals a game, tops in the league. It had won four straight and scored at least four goals in all of them. So when Henrik Tallinder suffered a deep cut above his ankle and didn't play after the first period, it was easy to assume Buffalo's blue-liners were in trouble. But they responded despite the increased workload. "We only allowed one goal, and this is a good team we just played against," defenseman Toni Lydman said. "I guess you just have to take that point and be happy about it." Tallinder's injury isn't serious, and there's a chance he could be back Monday when the Sabres host Ottawa in HSBC Arena. "There's enough reasons that he could sit out as come back and play," Ruff said. Of course, it helps the defense to have one of the league's top goaltenders playing at his best. Miller was again sensational, this time stopping 28 shots before an amped-up crowd in Pepsi Center. "Millsie obviously stood on his head for us," defenseman Nathan Paetsch said. "Obviously, we're so fortunate to have such an amazing goaltender. We've got an All-Star guy in net, and it makes a difference every night." Though Miller felt he could have made a difference on the tying goal, it came as part of an impressive Colorado rally. The Avalanche tried desperately to tie, attacking as if it were the closing seconds of a playoff-elimination game. Jordan Leopold took a shot from the point, and two Sabres slid to block it. Clarke MacArthur was second in line, and the rubber caromed off his helmet and found the top part of the net. "We went down to five D-men, we battled hard, and to work that hard and have a kind of chintzy little play be the difference to getting us to overtime, it's pretty brutal," Miller said. The Sabres built their 1-0 lead with a stellar second period. They finished it with a 16-7 shot edge, including Daniel Paille's goal with 9:18 gone. The shootout was a wild one that went to two extra shooters after each team scored twice. Smyth beat Miller with a high shot, and Peter Budaj stoned Clarke MacArthur to end it. "It's unfortunate in the shootout we couldn't pull it off," Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. "To keep it that close is definitely a pretty good accomplishment, and to finish the road trip with three out of four points is pretty good."Source

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