November 13, 2011

Ryan Miller loses respect for Milan Lucic after ‘gutless’ hit

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON — With a little more than 13 minutes gone in the first period of Saturday’s game between the Bruins and Sabres, Milan Lucic raced toward a loose puck in hopes of having a potential breakaway. Not a soul in the building foresaw the ensuing collision, especially Ryan Miller.

The Sabres netminder raced out a good 20 feet out of his crease in an attempt to swat the puck away, but Lucic kept on trucking in his direction. As they arrived at the puck simultaneously, Lucic didn’t slow up, leveling Miller and sending his mask careening back toward his own net. After briefly swinging his lumber in the Bruins winger’s direction, Miller laid flat on his back on the ice at TD Garden while Buffalo players gathered around Lucic in the corner.

Miller was eventually pulled from the game after two periods with the Sabres trailing 3-1. The 2010 U.S. Olympian made a brief appearance in front of the media after the game to share his disdain for No. 17 in Black and Gold.

“I’m not going to really get into that,” Miller said. “I just stuck around because I just want to say what a piece of [expletive] I think Lucic is. Fifty pounds on me, and he runs me like that. It’s unbelievable. Everyone in this city sees him as a big, tough, solid player.

“I respected him for how hard he played. That was gutless. Gutless, piece of [expletive].”

Lucic defended his actions.

“Well I blocked a shot, and it’s a race for a puck, and I mean I just put my head down and tried to get to it first,” said Lucic, who received a two-minute charging penalty on the play. “And next thing I looked up he was out of his net and it was a collision. So I mean obviously going into a situation like that I’m going to brace myself. And I was going full speed so it was pretty hard for me to put on the brakes. So that’s basically it.”

Sabres’ coach Lindy Ruff, who said Miller had a bit of a sore neck from the play, believed Lucic should’ve received a harsher punishment.

“I thought it was a major,” he said. “I thought if it’s open season on the goalies, then let’s get at it.”

Buffalo players indicated they shared the same expectation and didn’t respond in full force in fear of jeopardizing a five-minute power play.

“Well I think you want to get in but at the same time you know you’re probably going to have a major, well at the time we were thinking probably a major power play,” Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. “Obviously it didn’t go that way. Now that we know it didn’t go that way we probably would have liked to get in there a little more. I think our response overall throughout the game, aside from that hit, wasn’t good enough.”

But how about if the shoe was on the other foot? What if it was Tim Thomas — who admitted he thought he’d be getting drilled at some point — that was on the receiving end of the hit? Lucic said the B’s would’ve taken a stand without hesitation.

“Definitely. You know, we wouldn’t accept anything like that,” Lucic said. “We would have [taken] care of business. But we’re a different team than they are.”

Looks like Miller wasn’t the only one slinging verbal arrows at the enemy on Saturday night.