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OTTAWA -- Ryan Miller stood tall all game. He talked even bigger after it.

The Buffalo Sabres goaltender made 31 saves Monday night in a 1-0 loss to Ottawa, a defeat that put the Sabres on the cusp of elimination. Miller made several fabulous stops, and he was there for the team in the first period when Ottawa was the only one skating. He made 13 saves in the first period, including five stellar scoring chances in a three-minute span.

"We have to thank him for the kind of effort that he gave us," Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere said.

Several Sabres said they let Miller down, that they wasted his game. He wanted no part of it and quickly grabbed the baton for the "we can come back from this" bandwagon.

"I've got faith in my boys," he said. "We've just got to get something positive going. We're staring up a mountain right now, but it's just got to be one step at a time.

"We rattled off some pretty big streaks during the year. The pressure's on to go on a four-game streak here, but let's start with one, get it back to our building, maybe get these guys feeling uncomfortable. But we better be ready to compete two nights from now. If we start using each other like we can, there's not a team in this world who can touch us."

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If Daniel Alfredsson keeps up his torrid pace, he might as well go ahead and clear space on his mantle for the Conn Smythe Award.

Ottawa's captain, long criticized for coming up small in the postseason, scored the lone goal in Game Three, giving him one in five straight games and inflating his playoff-leading total to nine. His point streak is at seven games.

Alfredsson skated 23:33 in Game Three, second only to workhorse defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Alfredsson had three shots, two hits, five takeaways and two blocked shots.

"I think I'm a better player this year," Alfredsson said. "I think the second half I had was good for my confidence. I felt confident going into the playoffs. I didn't feel like I had to prove anything, just go out there and play hard and good things were going to happen."

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Ottawa won only five more faceoffs than Buffalo, but dominated while short-handed. The Senators killed off all six power plays they faced, allowing one bad-angle shot and running the Sabres' streak of futility to 18 for the series.

Although postgame statistics don't break down special teams faceoffs, Ruff said "We maybe won one power-play faceoff. You've got to give them some credit there. You're killing 30 seconds each time you lose one of those."

The Senators finally got a taste of what the Sabres are feeling. After scoring two power-play goals in each of the opening two games, they went 0 for 7 in Game Three.

"It happened with us tonight, too," Ottawa defenseman Wade Redden said. "We didn't get anything going on it, and you're just kind of killing time almost."

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The Sabres' outlook is bleak when they drop the first two games of a best-of-seven. But at least they aren't the Boston Bruins.

Among all the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball teams, the Sabres have the second-worst record when falling into a 0-2 hole, according to Web site WhoWins.com. The Sabres were eliminated the 13 previous times they lost Games One and Two. The Bruins are 0-25 in such situations.

The last time the Sabres were swept in a playoff series was 1992-93, when they lost to Montreal in the second round. All four games ended up 4-3.

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Henrik Tallinder stayed in the series, and so did the controversy involving him.

The Sabres defenseman, termed a "game-time decision" after the morning skate Monday, played in Game Three. He was hit into the boards by Alfredsson in Game Two.

"It's a pretty bad hit," Tallinder said. "It's checking from behind, obviously. But I guess the refs didn't see anything. It's four eyes out there, two pairs of eyes. That no one could see it was pretty amazing."

One day after Ruff deemed Alfredsson's hit a suspension-worthy offense and made a plea to get a five-on-three power play like the Senators did, Ottawa coach Bryan Murray retorted.

"What are we going to do about Lindy?" Murray said. "We all complain, and we all play games and make excuses or whatever it may be, but the bottom line is, we have to let the officials, whether we like them or not [call the game]. They had seven power plays, I think we had four, five. I think there was opportunity there for the referees to make calls within the game, and they were made.

"And we just have to leave it, go to the next game, and look at who is officiating and say, 'Well, that's the way it is.' So, he'll complain. I'll complain, too. You guys will call me a whiner, I'm sure, at that point in some article. That's OK."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com and tgraham@buffnews.com