Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller received a standing ovation in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night for leading the United States to an Olympic silver medal — cheers louder than those given the Penguins’ own Sidney Crosby.
Crosby beat Miller to score the game-winning goal in overtime Sunday as Canada defeated the United States 3-2 for the gold medal in Vancouver. Despite being on the losing team, Miller was chosen as the tournament MVP.
Olympians for both teams were introduced before the game, with Miller drawing the loudest and most sustained cheering. Crosby also was given a standing ovation, but it was less enthusiastic than Miller’s despite his vast popularity in Pittsburgh.
“It was a good tournament,” Miller said before the game. “Hopefully, it made some hockey fans here in the United States.”
Some Penguins fans admittedly were conflicted, enthused by the United States’ successful tournament — the Americans were unbeaten before losing to Canada — but too loyal to Crosby to boo the player who led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup last spring.
“I’ll leave it up to other people to decide, but for me it was a pretty proud moment,” Crosby said. “Being in Canada, playing hockey growing up as a kid and dreaming of playing for your country, then having it work out that way, it’s still pretty amazing to think about.”
There was a mixed reaction when a replay of Crosby’s game-winning goal was shown on the Mellon Arena scoreboard, with some cheering but also audible booing. Later in the game, when the replay was shown again during a break in play, there were noticeably more boos than cheers.
Miller sat out of the game after playing five of six games for the U.S. in Vancouver. Crosby was in the Penguins’ lineup and assisted on the first goal, by Sergei Gonchar on a power play at 14:58 of the first period.
“I’m a little spaced from traveling, the time change,” Miller said. “We were up there for two weeks and everything’s thrown off jut a bit. ... I’ll get my rest but there’s not much of a choice. We’ve got to keep playing.”
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, a Canada assistant coach during the games, started Patrick Lalime in net because he knew he emotionally draining the tournament was for Miller. Crosby’s three goals against Miller when the teams met Feb. 1 apparently didn’t figure in the decision.
Crosby said it wasn’t difficult to shift back into a playoffs-drive mode with Pittsburgh after spending two weeks in a win-the-gold mode with Canada.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, a lot of ups and downs,” Crosby said. “When you look at it, we had to win what felt like four Game 7s in a row to win. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but I’m looking forward to getting back to a routine.”