He was the Most Valuable Player at the Olympic Games, came tantalisingly close to winning a gold medal and was given a long standing ovation from his home fans on his return to action for the Buffalo Sabres - but Ryan Miller's first game back in the NHL was spoiled by the Washington Capitals.
The silver medal-winning US goalkeeper made 37 saves against the Caps, but that wasn't quite good enough as the NHL's leading team ground out a 3-1 victory on Wednesday night. Jason Chimera gave Washington (42-13-8) the lead in the second period before Mike Green and Boyd Gordon sealed victory with third-period goals. "When you play against a guy like Miller, you know he's not going to give up too many goals," said the Washington goaltender, Jose Theodore, after improving to 11-0-2 in his last 13 games.
"It was a real tight hockey game and I'm really happy with the way we got the win." Jochen Hecht converted a wrist shot in the second for the slumping Sabres (33-20-9), who have lost eight of their last nine. Miller said: "Right now we're just looking for an easier way to play our system, but it doesn't exist. "It's frustrating. It comes down to attitude. The attitude can't be, 'We hope we're going to win, we hope we're going to do our jobs so we don't get yelled at.' It's got to be take control, dictate play and trusting the system."
The already-strong Capitals were also the second most active team before Wednesday's trade deadline, bringing in four players to add experience and grit to their line-up. They made two trades with the Carolina Hurricanes, who shipped forward Scott Walker to Washington for a seventh-round draft pick and sent defenceman Joe Corvo to DC for Brian Pothier, Oskar Osala and a second-round selection.
The Capitals also added Eric Belanger, a rugged forward with 13 goals and 35 points, from the Minnesota Wild and the hulking blueliner Milan Jurcina from the Columbus Blue Jackets - both for draft picks. The Phoenix Coyotes were the busiest team on deadline day. The Boston Bruins sent defenceman Derek Morris to the Coyotes and replaced him with the Florida Panthers' Dennis Seidenberg. The Colorado Avalanche moved their 24-year-old left winger Wojtek Wolski to the Coyotes for forward Peter Mueller.
A record 31 transactions involving 54 players and 25 draft picks were completed in the 24 hours before the window closed, but there were no blockbuster deals. * With agencies