NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ryan Miller summed up his return to the ice in one word.
“Eventful,” the Buffalo Sabres’ star goalie said.
Activated from injured reserve Friday after missing eight games because of a concussion, Miller stopped 32 shots, and survived a collision with Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo, in Buffalo’s 3-2 win over the Predators on Saturday night.
“I’m happy to be back,” Miller said. “I’m happy to get a win. It has been awhile since I have felt like I have put together a game I could pride myself in.
“It was important for me to go out there and play a solid game. I did the things I wanted to do. On the goals, I was a little behind on both of them.”
His biggest stop came with 4:06 left in the second period. Tootoo crashed into Miller, knocking him out of the net and onto the ice. The collision prompted a pileup of players, and Miller threw several punches at Tootoo after they hit the ice.
Tootoo was given a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff didn’t think it was enough in terms of punishment.
“What happened in the game was a joke,” a livid Ruff said. “All it does is prove the fact when I said it was open season. It appears it is open season.
“You have a guy coming off a concussion and you’ve got Jordin Tootoo running over your goaltender,” Ruff said. “We used to get a two-minute power play. We got a one-minute power play. That’s a joke. I want to see what the league wants to do with this one.”
Miller stressed that he is determined to stand up for himself.
“He (Tootoo) is going to come hard to the net every time,” Miller said. “I got in the mix right after that. I can’t sit back and let other guys take advantage of me.
“I got right in the pileup and tried to do what I could do, which wasn’t a whole lot. But I showed that I am not going to take it.”
Tootoo said he did his best to avoid any contact with Miller.
“I was driving to the net and I got a little shove from behind,” Tootoo said. “The last thing I wanted to do was run the goalie over and put my team down. Clearly, I tried to jump out of the way. There was no intent to charge at him.”
Tootoo, who expects he will have to face the NHL’s disciplinary committee, thought Miller should have been penalized as part of the pileup after the collision.
“There were four guys throwing jabs at me for a good 30 seconds,” Tootoo said. “I was defenceless. What am I supposed to do? Take them all on? That’s unfortunate that Miller didn’t get anything called towards him, but that’s all I can say.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz stood by Tootoo’s explanation but said he could also understand why Ruff would be upset.
“When you get your star player bumped into, especially in his first game back, you are going to be ultra-sensitive,” Trotz said. “I would probably be the same way.”
Anders Lindback made his third start of the season for Nashville and gave up two goals in the first period and one in the third.
“We could have probably used one more save,” Trotz said. “They got one more puck than us.
“There are not too many things I can say about our game other than the mistakes. I thought we probably made six mistakes and three of them ended up in our net.”
Luke Adam was the first to score. With the puck loose in the slot, Adam gained control and beat Lindback over his right shoulder 10 minutes into the game. With 2:33 to go in the first, Zack Kassian broke loose on a breakaway and fired a backhand shot from low in the slot that also went over Lindback’s right shoulder.
The Predators broke the shutout at the 4:54 mark of the third period when Craig Smith scored on the power play from the middle of the left circle. His shot bounced off Miller and went over his shoulder.
Tyler Ennis scored what proved to be the winner with 4:15 left.
David Legwand beat Miller from low in the right circle with 1:35 to play for the final margin.
The Sabres managed only 14 shots in the game to the Predators’ 34—only the fourth time this season Nashville has outshot the opposition.
“We didn’t make a lot of great decisions shooting the puck, but I thought we battled hard,” Ruff said.
Notes: It was the sixth time this season that Adam has posted two points in a game. Smith has six points (one goal, five assists) in his last six games. … Chris Mueller was recalled by Nashville from Milwaukee of the AHL on Saturday and played in his first NHL game of the season. … Ville Leino added two assists for Buffalo. … The Predators have scored nine power-play goals in their last eight games. … This was the only meeting between the two teams this season.