Miller shrugs off controversy in U.S. win

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By Steve Keating

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - American netminder Ryan Miller shrugged off the controversy caused by slogans on his helmet to lead his team to a 3-1 win over Switzerland in their opening game of the Olympic men's hockey competition on Tuesday.

Miller was told by the International Olympic Committee to remove the nickname "Miller Time" from his mask but he was allowed to keep "Matt Man" on the back of his helmet as a tribute to his cousin who died of cancer at the age of 18.

"I didn't want to start some kind of international incident, I respect the rules here," Miller told reporters after stopping 14 shots against the Swiss.

"I put in a request that we would cover everything else," he added. "There was nothing corporate, nothing I was trying to sell. I was just honoring my cousin."

Miller, who also has "Matt Man" painted on his Buffalo Sabres helmet, said his aunt had cried when he told her what he was planning to do.

"She was in tears," he said. "She felt it was really special.

"He was excited when my opportunity for Olympics rolled around last time and was really angry I didn't make it. I just wanted to pay him tribute."

IOC rules regarding a clean field of play forced Miller to remove the nickname "Miller Time" from his mask because it also serves as a popular beer slogan.

His team mate Jonathan Quick was also told the "Support Our Troops" slogan from his patriotic-themed mask violated Olympic rules on political propaganda and must be covered up.

With the National Hockey League only shutting down for the Olympics break Sunday, the U.S. had only one practice together and struggled to find their rhythm against the Swiss.

Bobby Ryan opened the scoring with 61 seconds left in the first period, David Backes scored in the second on a superb end-to-end rush and Ryan Malone added another, jamming home a loose puck following a goalmouth scramble.

Hnat Domenichelli spoiled Miller's shutout bid with the third period's only goal.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)