Miller earns third shutout of season as Sabres drop Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Ryan Miller may be taking his Olympic audition a little too far.

Millero stopped all 38 shots he faced Monday to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-0 victory over Brian Burke's Toronto Maple Leafs.

Burke is in charge of assembling the U.S. Olympic team while Leafs coach Ron Wilson will be behind the American bench at the Vancouver Games. Miller has arguably been the top goaltender in the NHL this season and is the front-runner to earn the starting job for the U.S.

It was the second time this season Miller has beaten Toronto after making 35 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory on Oct. 30.

"Their goalie over there has stolen two games against us," said Leafs forward Matt Stajan. "I don't know what it is. Maybe his Team U.S. coach and GM are on our side, he wants to prove something? I don't know what it is, but he's one of the best and you've got to give him credit."

There was no shortage of that going around in either dressing room.

The shutout was the third of the season for Miller, who improved his league-leading numbers in the process -- he has a .937 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average. He also has 15 victories.

Earning an Olympic spot is one of his goals for the season, but he doesn't think the good performance in front of Burke will make a big difference in the end.

"I'm just trying to stay in my little groove and not sway from it," Miller said.

Tim Kennedy, Henrik Tallinder and Jochen Hecht scored for Buffalo (15-7-2).

The Leafs, meanwhile, were held off the scoresheet for the first time all season and fell to 6-12-7.

Starting with Tuesday's game in Montreal, the Leafs are embarking on an extremely busy stretch that will see them play 16 games in December.

"[We want to] claw our way back into the race," said Wilson.

Toronto raced out to a fast start, building an 8-1 shot advantage, but couldn't put the puck past Miller, who stopped a couple of chances from Phil Kessel before denying Niklas Hagman from in-close late in the first period.

In the second, he stopped Stajan on a dangerous rush and then stood tall as Mikhail Grabovski made a nifty move in front before extending his right pad to stop Kessel.

"I hope he plays like this in February," said Wilson. "That's about the extent of it. He made all the difference in the first two periods. We should have had the lead at some point, but you've got to give him credit, he made the saves."

Kennedy opened the scoring at 13:07 of the second period by catching Jonas Gustavsson cheating a little. The Sabers forward saw his soft shot bank off Gustavsson's skate and into the goal.

Any hopes of a Leafs comeback were eliminated 20 seconds into the third period, when Tallinder's long shot found the net. It was the first goal in 76 games for the defenseman. That was all the offense Miller would need, although Hecht would add another insurance goal.

Jason Pominville, who finished with two assists, is another U.S. Olympic hopeful and figures his Sabres teammate is already a lock for a trip to Vancouver.

"They know what he's capable of doing," said Pominville. "He proved it again tonight. He's probably going to be their guy. He's an elite goalie and he's been playing unbelievable for us."

Game notes
Mike Komisarek returned to the Toronto lineup after missing nine games with a torn quadriceps: "I felt good, felt really good. I had confidence." ... Jeff Finger (lower body), Garnet Exelby and Rickard Wallin sat out for the Leafs. ... Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and didn't return. ... Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta served the second game of his two-game suspension. ... It was the second career goal for Kennedy, a Buffalo native. ... Announced attendance was 19,110.