Sidney Crosby(notes) raised his arms triumphantly after slipping an overtime shot past Ryan Miller(notes) to give Canada its much-anticipated Olympic gold medal Sunday. All the Buffalo Sabres’ star goaltender could do was crumble to the ice in disappointment.
A flight to Pittsburgh isn’t likely to make the tournament MVP feel much better, although a night off could help.
A rematch of the Olympic hockey tournament’s defining moment will have to wait, as Patrick Lalime(notes) is due to spell Miller on Tuesday night when the Sabres pay their final regular-season visit to Crosby and the Penguins at Mellon Arena.
If Miller wasn’t a household name before the Olympics, he became one in Vancouver. Tied for second in the NHL with a 2.16 goals-against average, Miller allowed five goals on 108 shots while leading the United States into Sunday’s gold-medal game against Canada.
Miller made one spectacular save after another, but couldn’t quite lift the U.S. to gold. Crosby whipped a wrist shot past Miller 7:40 into overtime to give Canada a 3-2 win, sending the arena’s sea of red into a frenzy and an entire nation into a state of celebration.
“It’s a pretty unbelievable thing,” Crosby said. “You know what? Every kid dreams of that opportunity. Being in Canada, that’s the opportunity of a lifetime. You dream of that a thousand times growing up. For it to come true is amazing.”
Miller was named the tournament’s MVP despite the loss, confirming what the rest of the Sabres (33-18-9) already knew.
“We know him in this room, and we’ll take him over any other goaltender right now in the game,” Lalime said Monday. “He just showed the whole world what he can do.”
Miller returns to a team that remains one point out of first place in the Northeast Division despite dropping six of seven entering the Olympic break.
He’ll have to wait to get another crack at stopping Crosby. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff - an assistant with Canada - said Monday he’ll rest Miller against the Penguins (36-22-4), saving the Vezina Trophy frontrunner for a home matchup with Washington on Wednesday.
That means Lalime will be in net - a solid choice versus Pittsburgh. While Miller is 2-4-1 with a 4.33 GAA in his last eight starts against the Penguins, Lalime is 1-0-1 with a 0.58 GAA against them this season.
Two players who would love to quickly move past the Olympics are Evgeni Malkin(notes) and Sergei Gonchar(notes), who were part of the Russian team that got blown out in the quarterfinals by Canada. They can now help the Penguins - one point behind New Jersey in the Atlantic Division - defend their Stanley Cup.
“We just need to make sure our focus is on from the first minute we start playing again,” Gonchar said. “But otherwise, we know the system and we’ve been together for a while, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”
Leopold, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, had seven goals and 11 assists with the Panthers. Pittsburgh is hoping he can help shore up a defense that gave up 45 goals in the last 13 games before the break.
“Jordan Leopold played against Alex Ovechkin(notes) every shift last time Florida played Washington,” coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins’ official Web site. “When his coaches decided who plays against the other team’s top line, it was Jordan.”