Ryan Miller exited the Anaheim Ducks' bench and waved to Buffalo fans in what could be his final victory twirl in the city he called home for parts of 11 seasons.
Miller, the 39-year-old goalie who owns numerous Sabres records, was named the game's third star Sunday after stopping 31 of 33 shots in the Ducks' 3-2 win over Buffalo in KeyBank Center. He fended off a flurry of chances in the third period, including a shot by Jeff Skinner with less than two minutes remaining, to earn his 385th career win.
Ducks coach Dallas Eakins started Miller in back-to-back games for the second time this season, ensuring one of the greats in Sabres franchise history could face his former team for the sixth time since he was traded by Buffalo in February 2014.
Miller spoiled the Sabres' comeback attempt by making 15 saves in the third period, securing the lead after Anaheim scored three goals on its first six shots of the game. Johan Larsson scored off an Anaheim turnover late in the first period and Rasmus Dahlin cut the Sabres' deficit to one with his power-play goal in the second.
The Sabres (24-24-8) are 2-4-1 since the All-Star break, scoring only 14 goals during that span, and goalie Jonas Johansson stopped each of the final 22 shots he faced.
The Ducks (23-26-7), who entered Sunday with the second-fewest points in the Western Conference, led 3-1 at the end of the first period after goals by Jakob Silfverberg, Ryan Getzlaf and Nick Ritchie.
Opening salvo: Silfverberg gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead at 6:15 when he received a centering pass in the slot from Sam Steel and shot over Johansson's blocker. The Sabres entered Sunday 6-15-6 when allowing the first goal.
Another mistake: The Sabres were watching the puck in the defensive zone as Rickard Rakell made a backhanded pass to Getzlaf, whose one-timer beat Johansson for a 2-0 lead at 10:45 into the first period.
Patience: Coach Ralph Krueger showed patience in sticking with Johansson after the 24-year-old goalie was unable to stop Nick Ritchie's shot 12 minutes into the game. After their first two attempts were stopped by Johansson, the Ducks scored three goals on four shots for a 3-0 lead. The Sabres have not rallied from a three-goal deficit since a 5-4 overtime victory in Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, 2018.
Response: Johansson responded by using his right leg pad to stop Terry's penalty shot with 2:08 remaining in the first period. Terry was hooked by Lawrence Pilut, who missed Jack Eichel's pass at the blue line.
First strike: The Sabres cut the deficit to 3-1 with 1:07 remaining in the first period after Larsson and Scott Wilson forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Larsson retrieved the puck and scored with a wrist shot for his fifth goal of the season.
Special teams: Dahlin narrowed the deficit to one on the power play with his wrist shot that went inside the far post and behind Miller, who was screened by Rasmus Ristolainen. The goal was Dahlin's fourth of the season and his first since Jan. 16. He is one point shy of tying Rick Hampton for the third-most ever recorded by a teenage defenseman in NHL history.
Momentum: The Sabres were outshot, 12-11, in the second period, but they had six scoring chances, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. Miller was outstanding for the Ducks with his best save occurring seconds after he took a puck off the mask, recovering in time to get his blocker on Jimmy Vesey's rebound shot.
Still, the Ducks led 3-2 after 40 minutes, and the Sabres entered Sunday with a 1-17-3 record when trailing after two periods.
Return: Miller had not played a game in KeyBank Center since Feb. 6, 2018, when he stopped 30 of 33 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He entered Sunday with a 3-2 record and .916 save percentage in his career against Buffalo.
Defenseman Brendan Guhle also returned to KeyBank Center for the first time since he was traded to Anaheim last February. Guhle, 22, was recalled from San Diego on Sunday morning after scoring four goals with 12 points in 24 AHL games.
Absences: Center Marcus Johansson (illness) and goalie Carter Hutton (family reasons) were unavailable Sunday against Anaheim. In corresponding roster moves, the Sabres recalled defenseman Lawrence Pilut and goalie Andrew Hammond, who served as Buffalo's backup.
Next: The Sabres are off Monday and host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.