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Originally published February 21, 2010 at 9:57 PM | Page modified February 22, 2010 at 3:28 PM

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Steve Kelley

Goaltender Miller is the difference in U.S. win over Canada in men's hockey

For 60 minutes on Sunday afternoon, the best Canadian hockey players strafed Miller, but he passed the test in America's 5-3 win.

Seattle Times staff columnist

VANCOUVER, B.C. — As Ryan Miller walked around town with his family the past few nights he heard his share of trash talk, or at least what passes for trash talk in this country.

After all, this is Canada, where trash talk comes with an apology. Call it recyclable trash talk. Green trash talk.

"It was just stuff like, 'Hey, there's the American goalie Ryan Miller,' " Miller said. "And then they would just say things like, 'Go Canada,' or 'Go Canada, go.' That's all you get up here."

Not exactly Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

"They're very polite up here," Miller said. "They respect the game."

For 60 minutes on Sunday afternoon, the best Canadian hockey players strafed Miller.

They made lies out of all the pregame talk that they were thinking too much, passing too much, shucking and jiving, when they should have been shooting and scoring.

They flew at Miller like the all-stars they are. They played inexorably straight-ahead, hockey the way Canadians expect Canadians to play.

They threw slap shots and wrist shots at Miller. They threw bodies and continued to come at him in red-sweatered waves. But Miller was better than red.

"He stood on his head, again," U.S. forward Patrick Kane said after the 5-3 upset win that advanced to his team to the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, Canada has to play Germany on Tuesday in a qualification game.

Blame it on Miller. He was white hot. And in a hockey tournament as balanced as this, brilliant goaltending can take a team all the way to gold.

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"He's the man to watch," forward David Backes said. "He steals games. He's a difference-maker. And he lived up to both of those names tonight."

Canada Hockey Place was a shooting gallery and the steadfast Miller was the target. He should have been given a blindfold and a cigarette before the game.

Even then, he probably would have stopped anything that came at him. He made 42 saves, few of them routine.

Miller was brilliant and his teammates were emboldened by that brilliance.

"He was awesome," U.S. forward Ryan Malone said. "We had a couple of lapses in there, but because of Ryan, we bent, but we didn't break.

"You don't want to leave him out there undressed too many times, but we do know that he's back there and like all good goaltenders do, he gives us confidence to be able to go out and make plays."

Twice early in the game, Patrick Marleau got loose in front of Miller and was stoned. Joe Thornton's redirected shot thumped Miller in the chest late in the first period when Canada threw 18 shots at Miller and he stopped 17 of them.

In the last five minutes, when the puck always seemed to be in the United States' end, Miller made the difference.

"I knew they were going to bring pucks at the net and I tried to keep my game very simple," Miller said. "I made my reads simple. If I start bouncing all over the ice, I'm not very efficient."

On Canada's home ice, with the entire country trying to will its team to gold, Miller postponed the dream. The Canadians tied the score at 2-2 in the second period and the fans briefly taunted him, calling "Mil-ler, Mil-ler." It only took a couple of saves for him to mute them.

"We were just playing against the boys in the red uniforms and not the entire country," Miller said. "And we were able to check our emotions."

The United States took just 23 shots. But its forechecking created just enough Canadian turnovers that led to just enough scoring opportunities.

Forty-one seconds into the game, Brian Rafalski, who scored twice in the first period, beat Canada's Martin Brodeur on a slap shot from the point.

Ahead 4-2, Miller allowed a power-play goal from Sidney Crosby with 3:09 to go, then deftly fought off the final Canadian swarm.

"We knew they were going to rally," said Jamie Langenbrunner, whose early third-period power-play goal gave the U.S. a two-goal lead. "They turned the press on, but Ryan Miller turned them away."

Miller stood on his head and, for a day at least, silenced this great (and polite) hockey nation.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

A rare feat
Team USA defeated Canada for just the third time in Olympics history.
Year Result
2010 USA 5, Canada 3
2002 Canada 5, USA, 2*
1998 Canada 4, USA 1
1994 Canada 3, USA 3
1984 Canada 4, USA 2
1968 Canada 3, USA 2
1964 Canada 8, USA 6
1960 USA 2, Canada 1
1956 USA 4, Canada 1
1952 Canada 3, USA 3
1948 Canada 12, USA 3
1936 Canada 1, USA 0
1932 Canada 2, USA 1, OT
1932 Canada 2, USA 2, OT
1924 Canada 6, USA 1
1920 Canada 2, USA 0
* Gold medal game.

Record: 3-10-3

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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