Even at 39 years of age, Ryan Miller is proving he still has plenty left in the tank. The ageless veteran turned in one of his finest performances as a Duck, stopping 31-of-33 shots to backstop Anaheim to a 3-2 victory over his former club, the Buffalo Sabres, at KeyBank Center on Sunday afternoon.
Miller played the first 11 seasons of his NHL career in Buffalo, starting a team-record 403 games and winning the 2009 Vezina Trophy. He was greeted by a hearty cheer when he stepped onto the ice for warmups, and again when he was announced as the Ducks' starting goaltender. With the win today, Miller tied Mike Vernon (385) for 15th place on the NHL's all-time wins list.
"It's always a nice flashback coming back here," said Miller, who was selected by the Sabres in the fifth round (138th overall) of the 1999 NHL Draft. "I love seeing the people who meant a lot to me over the years. I come to the rink and everyone has a smile on their faces. It was a great time. It's always a little nerve-wracking because you want to perform well. I love Buffalo so much. It's an emotional thing."
He was at his best in the third period when his teammates were hanging on for dear life. The Ducks had jumped out to an early three-goal lead just 12 minutes into first period, but fell into a rapid freefall early in the second period.
The Ducks completed their road trip by earning a point in all five contests (3-0-2) for the first time in 17-plus years and the second time in franchise history (continuous trip five games or longer). In 2002-03, the Mighty Ducks went 2-0-3 during a five-game road trip from Nov. 12-17, 2002. With the win, Anaheim improved its record to 19-2-2 when leading after two periods.
When asked postgame what it meant to tie Vernon for 15th on the all-time wins list, Miller was his usual humble self. "Just keep going," he said. "Never expected to be in any of these positions. I just like to play. All these are fine to look back on."
Jakob Silfverberg got the Ducks on the board at the 6:15 mark of the opening frame when he wired a wrist shot past rookie goaltender Jonas Johansson for his 17th goal of the season. It came off a nice pass from Sam Steel, who found the veteran right wing trailing the play.
Video: ANA@BUF: Silfverberg scores from slot in transition
They doubled the lead less than five minutes later when Ryan Getzlaf buried a shot between the circles for his 12th goal of the season. It ended a 12-game drought for the captain, who posted his 37th point of the season with the goal.
Video: ANA@BUF: Getzlaf doubles lead with laser one-timer
Nick Ritchie gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead 75 seconds later when his shot from the left faceoff dot slid across the ice and through the five hole for his sixth goal of the season.
Video: ANA@BUF: Ritchie scores after collecting loose puck
Troy Terry had a chance to give the Ducks a four-goal cushion when he was awarded a penalty shot after getting hauled down on a breakaway, but his wrist shot was denied by Johansson's right pad.
One minute later, the Sabres got on the board with 1:07 remaining in the first period when Johan Larsson capitalized on a Ducks turnover and scored his fifth goal of the season on a partial breakaway.
The Sabres made it a one-goal game with 8:19 remaining in the middle frame when Rasmus Dahlin's shot from the left point made its way through a sea of traffic on the power play.
Once the buzzer sounded, Miller scooped up the game puck and saluted the crowd at center ice.
The Ducks will return to Anaheim to open a two-game homestand beginning Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues.