By Tim Schmitt
BUFFALO — It happens so rarely, that even Lindy Ruff’s memory was foggy on how many times he’s pulled start goalie Ryan Miller this season. After giving up three goals in the first 11 shots he faced, Miller got the hook on Tuesday in Buffalo’s scintillating come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Penguins,
And although Miller was also pulled on Halloween in a 5-0 loss to the New York Islanders, Ruff claimed in his post-game press conference it was the first time this season.
“When you have just one of those nights in your first 40, it’s not so bad. He’s been so solid for us,” Ruff said of pulling Miller, omitting the night on Long Island. “I guarantee you probably every starter in this league is going to get pulled this year and to get one after 40. It just looked like he was having a tough night. You’ve got to take the emotion out of it and give the other guy a go.”
As for Lalime, he didn’t simply mop up. Instead, the once-maligned backup made a number of key saves in the second to keep the hosts down by just three goals. Buffalo responded with four unanswered goals, boosting Lalime’s record to two wins and a shootout loss in his last three starts.
“We got real determined in the second after we took Ryan out. We won some battles and made some good plays. We started making a difference,” Ruff said. “Patty gave us some good saves, we had to get aggressive. We gave up some opportunities, and you have to get a save here or there and Pat gave us that when we were trying to push it as far as we could push it.”
The Sabres were awarded a penalty shot in the second period when Jay McKee was ruled to have held the puck in the crease during a scramble in which Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was caught outside the crease.
According to the Sabres, NHL officials in Toronto were reviewing the play for a long period of time to see if the puck had already crossed the line, but that determination couldn’t be made.
A pair of Sabres have already been named to Olympic rosters, but more could be announced today as four more countries finalize their rosters.
Henrik Tallinder (Sweden) and Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) are already headed for the 2010 games in Vancouver while Ruff will be on the Team Canada coaching staff.
It’s likely that Jochen Hecht will join the growing list when Germany announces its roster today. Also, Finland will unveil its lineup as will Team Canada.
The Americans will announce their team on New Year’s Day with Miller a virtual shoo-in to be included.
The Sabres’ special teams made major contributions to the win, as the penalty killing unit continues to climb the charts, and keeping the net clean in two man-advantage situations on Tuesday should only help. Buffalo entered the game ranked No. 6 in the league by killing more than 84 percent of those situations.
Likewise, the power play scored what proved to be the game-winning goal as Jason Pominville’s third-period marker came with Craig Adams serving two minutes for boarding.
Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.