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GAME: Eastern Conference semifinals; Sabres lead 2-0.
TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT.
Ryan Miller shared goaltending duties for the Buffalo Sabres throughout the regular season, and it was uncertain whether he would be the team's top goalie come playoff time.
After a stellar performance in his last game, and with his club playing well in front of him, no one is questioning coach Lindy Ruff's decision to give Miller that responsibility now.
Miller looks to continue his outstanding play and lead the Sabres to a 3-0 lead in their second-round series against the Ottawa Senators when the teams meet at HSBC Arena.
Games 3 and 4 will be played in Buffalo on back-to-back nights, giving the Sabres the chance to finish off the series by Thursday without having to return to Ottawa.
Miller earned his fourth straight win and third in a row on the road Monday, making 43 saves as Buffalo followed up its stunning Game 1 victory with a 2-1 win at Scotiabank Place.
Miller allowed six goals on 33 shots in Friday's opener, but the Sabres tied that game with 10.7 seconds left and Chris Drury scored 18 seconds into overtime to give Buffalo a 7-6 win.
"We hung tough," Ruff said after Game 2. "Nobody likes to be questioned, and I think there were questions being asked after Games 3 and 4 in Philly, and I thought he responded really well. (Monday) was just a solid performance by him and that's what he has given us most of the year."
The 25-year-old Miller went 30-14-3 with a 2.60 goals-against average during the regular season, but he shared the Buffalo net with veteran Martin Biron, who was 21-8-0 with a 2.88 GAA. When the playoffs started, though, Ruff went with Miller, who started a career-high 48 games this season and is playing in his first postseason.
Miller has a 2.38 goals-allowed average and .915 save percentage in the playoffs, and has battled inconsistency so far. He gave up five goals on 33 shots in a 5-4 loss in Game 4 of Buffalo's first-round series against Philadelphia.
The Sabres, though, went on to defeat the Flyers in six games, and are position to knock off the top-seeded Senators. After Monday's contest, Buffalo is supremely confident in its goalie, who led his team to a win even though the Sabres were outshot 44-17.
"It was a huge night for Ryan Miller," Drury said. "We hung in there at the end. It felt like we were in our zone the whole third period, but we battled and we got an important win."
The Sabres were outshot 17-4 in the second period and 15-4 in the third, but Miller helped them to their eighth straight playoff win over Ottawa.
Buffalo's offense came from J.P. Dumont, who opened the scoring at 3:33 of the second period, and Jochen Hecht, who returned after missing three games and gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead on a breakaway 2:27 after Dumont's goal.
Chris Phillips scored for the Senators just 1:40 later, but thanks to Miller, Ottawa couldn't get the equalizer.
"We battled hard," Senators goalie Ray Emery said. "We got a lot of shots, a lot of chances. Sometimes, they just don't get in there. I want to win for the team. I want to do my part and it's definitely disappointing when the other guys are playing well, and they bury their chances."
Buffalo held Ottawa forwards Martin Havlat and Dany Heatley without a point for the first time in the playoffs. Havlat has seven goals and five assists, and Heatley has three goals and nine assists in Ottawa's seven postseason games.
The Senators are 0-4 when losing the first two games of a playoff series.
Sabres center Tim Connolly may play Wednesday despite leaving in the first minute Monday following a clean open-ice hit from Peter Schaefer. Connolly, who missed the 2003-04 season with post-concussion syndrome, suffered an upper-body injury and did not return.
Connolly sent Game 1 to overtime with his second goal of the game with 10.7 seconds left. He has five goals and six assists in the postseason.
"We anticipate him playing," Ruff said. "He feels pretty good right now."
Buffalo, making its first playoff appearance after a three-season absence, is 7-1 in best-of-seven series in which it has won the first two games.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Senators - 1st seed; beat Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1, East quarterfinals. Sabres - 4th seed; beat Philadelphia Flyers 4-2, East quarterfinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Havlat, 7 goals; Heatley, 9 assists; Havlat and Heatley, 12 points; Andrej Meszaros, 18 PIM. Sabres - Connolly and Dumont, 5 goals; Daniel Briere, 8 assists; Connolly and Briere, 11 points; Jay McKee, 16 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 27.0 percent (10 for 37). Penalty killing: 87.2 percent (34 for 39). Sabres - 16.3 percent (8 for 49). Penalty killing: 88.1 percent (37 for 42).
GOALTENDERS: Senators - Emery (4-3, 3.17 GAA); Mike Morrison (no appearances). Sabres - Miller (6-2, 1 SO, 2.38); Biron (no appearances).
|May 13 '06||BUF 3 at OTT 2 - OT||J. Pominville|
|May 11 '06||OTT 2 at BUF 1||W. Redden|
|May 10 '06||OTT 2 at BUF 3 - OT||J. Dumont|
|May 08 '06||BUF 2 at OTT 1||J. Hecht|
|May 05 '06||BUF 7 at OTT 6 - OT||C. Drury|