BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—With the crowd chanting USA! USA!, Ryan Miller got a little emotional.
Miller, left off the United States Olympic, made 21 saves to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-2 victory Thursday night over Philadelphia and goalie Robert Esche, who will be playing for team USA at the Turin Games.
Miller’s omission from the U.S. team hasn’t gone over well with Sabres fans, and they’ve been voicing their displeasure with the snub.
The goalie himself has been letting his play speak for itself, winning four straight and going 6-1 in his last seven starts.
“It was flattering to hear them. Our fans are great,” Miller said. “It just feels really good. I just want to beat the Flyers no matter what. I’m not going to pick out the other goaltender and key on him.”
Esche made 33 saves in the loss, the Flyers’ third in the last four games. Esche was making his fourth start since returning from a groin injury.
“With a talented team like they are, they make you move so much,” he said. “Those forwards on that team are very underrated. I think they are some of the best in the game right now.”
The crowd chanted for the first time after Miller made a spectacular save in the second period on Flyers forward R.J. Umberger, robbing him with a sliding, right toe save. In the third, the sellout crowd was at it again after Miller made a crucial save on Sami Kapanen, who was bearing down on the goalie on a partial breakaway.
“I was on the bench and I said, ‘This is unbelievable,”’ said Sabres rookie Jason Pominville. “I couldn’t imagine how he felt out there.”
Making their first appearance in Buffalo since finishing a season-long, six-game road trip with a win in Atlanta on Tuesday, the Sabres broke out quickly
Buffalo peppered Esche with 16 shots in the first period.
The Flyers, though, came out of the frame with a 1-1 tie, and rebounded with a strong second period. Unfortunately, they were unable to solve Miller, who made another scintillating right leg save on Flyers forward Jeff Carter when the Sabres were two-men short late in the second.
“He played well, what else can I say,” Philadelphia captain Derian Hatcher said about Miller. “Both goalies played well.”
“The first period hurt us a lot,” Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We mounted a comeback in the second, but couldn’t score.”
But the Sabres did, as Campbell and Hecht made it 3-1 after two periods. Hecht’s goal went off of Knuble’s skate in the crease after Esche’s initial glove save bounced high in the air, dropping behind him and a couple of feet in front of the goal line. Knuble knocked the puck in while attempting to stop.
The Flyers made it 3-2 with 3 minutes to go in regulation after Knuble scored his 23rd of the year, but Pominville iced it with an empty-net goal with 7.1 seconds left.
Knuble’s goal was Miller’s lone mistake, as he intercepted Miller’s clearing attempt along the right boards, shooting the puck into the net before Miller could get back in.
“He just chewed off too much there,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said about his goalie.
Gagne gave Philadelphia 1-0 lead 12 1/2 minutes into the first period with his 35th goal, tying the league-lead.
Buffalo tied it three minutes later on Pyatt’s fourth of the year.
Flyers D Joni Pitkanen played in his 100th career NHL game. … Philadelphia’s Kim Johnsson (concussion symptoms) also missed the game, but Hitchcock said Johnsson and Forsberg may return by next week. … Buffalo defenseman Dmitri Kalinin missed his first game after separating his shoulder in Buffalo’s win over Atlanta on Tuesday. He is expected to be lost until after the Olympic break. … The Sabres haven’t lost to Philadelphia in Buffalo in the last seven games.