coach Lindy Ruff isn't taking any chances with his world-class goaltender.
With a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs already booked, Ryan Miller played only the first half of Saturday's game. He was on the bench when Paul Gaustad scored the winner late on a power play as the Sabres held on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 at Nationwide Arena in the season finale for both teams.
Buffalo enters the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres could have moved up to sixth, but Montreal beat Toronto 4-1.
Miller missed four games with an upper-body injury before returning Friday -- he relieved Jhonas Enroth and got the victory in a 4-3 overtime win against Philadelphia. On Saturday, Ruff limited Miller to 30 minutes of action, allowing Enroth to finish up and get the win.
"Lindy wanted to make sure I could get tested then get me out of there to give me some more time to practice and prepare, and not risk anything," said Miller, who allowed one goal on 21 shots. "I felt good. My awareness is better. That goal against I wanted to get to my net a little cleaner."
The Sabres will face the Flyers in an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.
"It was a game we wanted to make sure we got through and nobody got hurt," Ruff said.
With the game tied 3-3, Drew Stafford and Gaustad, who also had an assist, scored during a five-minute major to former Buffalo captain Craig Rivet for cross-checking Tyler Ennis.
Jason Pominville added a goal and an assist, and Chris Butler and Ennis also scored for the Sabres, who went 28-11-6 since Jan. 1 to earn the most points in the East during that span.
"You obviously want to produce and help out," said Brad Boyes, who tied a career high with three assists. "Now going into the playoffs hopefully it helps out."
Kristian Huselius scored twice, and Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll also scored for Columbus, which finished the season with three regulation wins in its last 22 games. The Blue Jackets did put up the second-highest point total (81) in franchise history.
It seemed as if the streaking Sabres were going to pull away after they took a 3-1 lead with three consecutive goals in the second period, but the Blue Jackets rallied and Huselius tied it early in the third on a snap shot.
"We had lots of chances to get the lead before the penalty (to Rivet)," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said.
The game turned for good when Rivet cracked Ennis, his former teammate, and was ejected at 11:44.
Stafford scored a highlight-reel goal, spinning in front of Mason and flipping in his 31st of the season on the power play. Gaustad followed a minute later with a redirection.
Huselius scored with via the man advantage with 23 seconds left.
The Blue Jackets struck first early in the second frame with Dorsett beating Miller on the wraparound.
"We were a little sloppy in the first period," Ruff said. "I thought our game looked good after that."
Buffalo responded 3 minutes later with Pominville blasting a one-timer from the high slot for his 22nd. On a relentless forecheck all night, the Sabres stole the puck and scored again midway through the period before Butler fired a slap shot from the left circle past Mason.
Stafford forced another turnover leading to an easy goal for Ennis -- his 20th -- from in front at 15:12. Boll cut the lead to 3-2 a minute later, stuffing home a rebound after a drive to the net by Matt Calvert.
"It was a good game, a good finish," Buffalo defenseman Tyler Meyers said. "Good way to end the year for us to get a win on the road going into the first round."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report