Ryan Miller’s postgame meeting with reporters lasted just 76 seconds Sunday. He was willing to say more but the media didn’t need to fire any more questions his way because it was plainly clear how the Sabres’ goaltender felt after the 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh.
Miller dropped three expletives during the chat and the frustration was pretty understandable as the Sabres maintained their dubious streak of not winning back-to-back home games this season.
Paul Martin’s winning goal with 2:04 left, a flutterball from the point that Miller never found thanks to a Christian Ehrhoff screen, wasn’t the only play that bothered Miller.
He was equally perturbed by Pascal Dupuis’ tying goal at 7:06 of the third, which came a few seconds after a Jason Pominville giveaway at the Buffalo blue line. It also came less than two minutes after Steve Ott had given the Sabres their only lead.
“It’s just a [bleep] way to lose,” Miller said. “I don’t understand. Your guard has to be up at all times. They get right back in the game. And a broken play to seal it for them. Just preventable and not what we need to be doing right now.”
Miller entered the game on quite a hot streak over his last four games with a 2.00 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, as he had stopped 136 of 144 shots. But the Penguins are his personal Kryptonite.
Miller is 1-7 in his last eight starts against Pittsburgh. For his career, he’s just 5-11-3 against them with a 3.44 goals-against average and an .881 save percentage.
It’s his worst save percentage against any opponent and his second-worst GAA and record (3.69, 2-6-2 versus Detroit). And, of course, that doesn’t even count Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal against him at the Vancouver Olympics.
Miller’s hot streak took a quick cold bath as the Penguins scored on their first two shots after just 87 seconds.
“I thought there were a couple tough bounces to start, good goals by them,” Miller said. “A tip and a play off the end wall. We recovered and we played really well. It was our best second period we’ve had.”
Like his team, Miller recovered and made 31 saves. His best stop came just 64 seconds before the game-winning goal, sliding to his left to snare James Neal’s one-timer with his glove after yet another scintillating pass by Crosby.
“That’s what Ryan does,” said Ott. “We have a first-class goalie here. You’re going to see some phenomenal saves. I can think of a few already that he’s done big-big saves like that to give us a chance. When Ryan is giving us a chance every night, we need to find a way to win games for him.”
The wretched Buffalo power play went 1 for 4, with Thomas Vanek’s second-period goal snapping an 0-for-14 slump over a five-game stretch. Still, the Sabres are just 2 for 34 over the last nine games. They’re just 8 for 59 for the season, and their 13.6 percent clip is tied for 25th in the NHL.
“We need to figure out ways to react when teams are really pressuring,” said center Cody Hodgson. “Pittsburgh did a good job on the penalty kill but we can’t use that as a an excuse. We need to figure out ways to score.”
Tough guys Cody McCormick and Tanner Glass had a spirited fight at 2:22 of the third period, clearly in response to a hard hit McCormick dropped on Pittsburgh winger Brandon Sutter late in the second period.
Early in the bout, Glass’ head got locked inside his sweater and he was totally vulnerable. But McCormick stopped, allowed Glass to re-emerge and the fight then continued as both players landed some good shots.
“That McCormick is a class act and a tough dude!” Glass tweeted an hour after the game.
The pair has some history as they fought last year while Glass was with Winnipeg. McCormick endured a concussion a few days later in Montreal that many observers theorize had its roots in the fight with Glass.
The Sabres have been credited with 52 hits in the last two games, 29 Friday against Boston and 23 Sunday. Ott had 11 Friday and added five more Sunday to boost his NHL-leading total to 64.
The teams combined for three goals on the game’s first four shots, and the Elias Sports Bureau reported that’s the first time that’s happened in any NHL game since the Sabres and Atlanta did it in a 4-3 Thrashers win at Phillips Arena on March 16, 2010. … Sabres rookie Mikhail Grigorenko was a healthy scratch for the second time. He was joined by defenseman T.J. Brennan. Andrej Sekera (charley horse) also sat, replaced by Pittsburgh-area native Mike Weber, who played 18:28 and was minus-1. … West Seneca native Tim Nowak was a linesman.