Miller claims MVP, despite US golden OT loss
AP Hockey Writer
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Ryan Miller could only do so much.
Only a shot from Canada’s favorite Kid – Sidney Crosby – 7:40 into overtime during Sunday’s gold-medal game kept him from carrying the United States to a perfect mark and the top spot on the Olympic podium.
Canada 3, United States 2.
And it was every bit that close thanks to the American goaltender, who made 36 saves in an arena rooting hard against him and waiting for him to fail.
“I’m just very frustrated,” Miller said. “We got ourselves in a position to win from two goals down. Sudden death kind of stings, especially in this situation. I was happy, proud, the way I handled myself these two weeks.”
When Crosby’s winning shot found the back of the net, Miller dropped to a knee and then fell forward. He stayed down for several moments until it was time to head to the bench.
Miller, the tournament MVP, graciously accepted the silver medal around his neck, but the disappointment was easy to read on his face.
“He was the main reason we were in the gold medal game and why we got it to overtime,” forward Ryan Callahan said.
Chris Drury, Miller’s former teammate with the Buffalo Sabres, hugged the devastated goalie near the U.S. bench as the celebration roared all around them.
“He’s pretty down, but there’s no chance we’re here without the way he played the whole tournament,” Drury said. “It’s heartbreaking to lose in OT of a gold-medal game, but he should be proud of everything he did the last two weeks.”
Miller played in all six U.S. games and was in for the duration, except for the second half of the third period in a 6-1 semifinal win over Finland. He stopped 139 of 147 shots in the tournament.
His defining moment – on the winning side – will be the stellar 42-save effort a week earlier that carried the Americans to a 5-3 victory over Canada in the preliminary round. That victory began making believers of many people outside the red, white and blue dressing room.
“This was a classic hockey game, just as our game was a week ago,” U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. “Ryan gave us a chance to win, and unfortunately we didn’t.”
Miller was done in on Sunday by a couple of costly mistakes by his typically sure-handed defensemen. The gaffes led to shots that gave the rock-solid goalie little chance to stop.
Miller was beaten by Canada’s Jonathan Toews in the first period and Corey Perry in the second. But it was what happened before those pucks found their way in that told the true story.
When an attempt on a long pass failed to hit its mark and sailed the length of the ice, the United States was guilty of icing. After the ensuing faceoff deep in the U.S. zone, defenseman Brian Rafalski had control of the puck, but it was stripped from him when Canada’s Mike Richards lifted his stick.
Richards’ drive was stopped by Miller. The rebound wasn’t. Toews got to the loose puck and slammed it in.
“I’m not going to focus on that now. We were tied going into overtime,” said Rafalski, a member of the 2002 U.S. team that lost to Canada in the gold medal game at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
Whitney’s bobble led to the other goal.
“We had a chance to win. They got two rebound goals,” Whitney said. “To lose like this is tough. No one wants silver. Everyone wants gold.”
Even with an early 0-2 deficit – the first for the Americans’ in this stunning Olympic run – Miller proved to be as brilliant as he had been throughout the tournament.
A two-goal hole was already deep for the Americans. Three would have been almost too monumental to overcome.
Miller knew it and never let it get that far. He watched from the bench after being pulled for an extra attacker and saw Zach Parise net the goal that made it 2-2 with 24.4 seconds remaining that forced a most improbable overtime.
Canada was in control throughout extra time, keeping the puck in the U.S. zone and the pressure squarely on the young Americans. Their speed, the Americans’ greatest strength, seemed to slow as the game wore on under the constant hitting from the much-bigger Canadians.
“It certainly doesn’t feel good right now,” Drury said, “but where we came from in August when people were making fun of how many Johnsons and Ryans and everything else we had … no one knew our names. People know our names now.”
For the record, there were seven Ryans – first or last name – and two Johnsons on the young roster already poised to make another run at gold four years from now in Sochi, Russia. That is if the NHL decides to allow its players to participate in the Olympics for a fifth consecutive time.
“I hope the players, especially my group, gets to go to Sochi,” U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. “I think it’s great for hockey.”
U.S. general manager Brian Burke said he didn’t want anyone picked for this team to think they were chosen with 2014 in mind. Whether anyone outside USA Hockey wanted to believe it never mattered to those in charge.
They came to Vancouver for gold and were forced to settle for silver.
“I think both teams are winners, and maybe more than anything hockey in general won,” Wilson said. “It’s just a shame that both teams couldn’t have received a gold medal.
“A great player made a great play and found a way to finish us off.”
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