The dragon was there for the slaying.
Not with a sword, but rather sticks and pucks and, for a brief time in the third period, a serenading from the Air Canada Centre crowd, which took advantage of a rare opportunity - a lead - against the Buffalo Sabres netminder to rain down chants of his name.
But down 2-1 and with plenty of time to play in the third period, the real Ryan Miller showed up, delivering yet another performance that left the Toronto Maple Leafs confounded, confused and on the losing end as the Sabres rallied to win 3-2 in overtime.
"Ryan's our rock out there," said Sabres forward Derek Roy, who netted the game winner on a pretty deke in front of the Leafs goal with a little more than a minute remaining in the extra frame. "He made some huge saves and we got our act together in the third period."
That act, for the most part, proved pretty ugly through the game's first 53 minutes, as the Maple Leafs rode goals from Viktor Stalberg and Ian White in the first and second periods to a lead that looked safe deep into the third period.
But with Miller making 13 saves in that frame alone, the game broke open on a Jamal Mayers turnover with seven minutes to go as Sabres centre Jochen Hecht tied things 2-2.
Ten minutes later, it was Roy doing the honours, handing Miller his ninth victory in the past 10 games against the Leafs and quieting a ACC crowd that hasn't had much reason to cheer against Buffalo lately.
"It was a tight third period, and we only got a couple of chances," Miller said. "But we made one count and got to overtime."
The loss is the Leafs' fourth in a row against the Sabres this season, and it proved the most painful given Buffalo's struggling offence was held mostly in check for all but the game's final 10 minutes.
Miller, however, has given more teams than just the Leafs trouble this season, boasting a 21-7-2 record and the top goals-against average (1.89) and save percentage (.938) in the league. Against Toronto, he has been even better, with one loss in the past two seasons (9-1) and only 14 goals against in the 10 games.
Miller also sports a 21-7-0 career record against the Leafs, a stat line that has Toronto head coach Ron Wilson and his troops growing weary of being asked just how they can beat him.
"If all you do is worry about scoring on the goalie, you often forget about stopping the other team from scoring and they fill your net," Wilson said before the game, attempting to deflect as much Miller worship before the game as he could.
The strategy appeared to be working, too, as Wilson's team delivered a strong performance in its own end through two periods, limiting the Sabres to few chances and relying on some decent - and lucky - goaltending from Jonas Gustavsson to hold onto the lead.
Stalberg and White, meanwhile, both beat Miller in close and with traffic in front of the Sabres net - the same formula the Leafs had preached in three earlier meetings but failed to execute on.
In the end, however, it wasn't enough, and Toronto now hasn't beaten Buffalo at home in nearly two years, dating back to January of 2008. It won't get another chance until April.
The Sabres, meanwhile, are 13 points up on the Leafs and leading the Northeast Division, with six of that point differential coming from wins over Toronto.
Perhaps fortuitously, the Leafs have only two more dates with the one franchise - and goaltender - they've struggled so mightily against in recent years.
"He's not unbeatable," Wilson said of Miller in the lead up to the game. "He's lost seven games already this year."
Not unbeatable, no. But still unbeaten against Toronto - and with a pile of wins to show for it only 35 games in.
Notes Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller was in fine form before last night's game, hamming it up for reporters when asked about his weight (for the record, the slim goalie has already lost six pounds so far this season). "One of you guys can take my book idea when I'm done: The Goalie Workout," he said. "Make millions off that. Sell it to all the actors in Hollywood. Strap 30 pounds of gear on and send them out for a two-hour workout." … Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said there's no secret to beating his masked man. "I don't think there is right now. I think if there was, other teams would have it already. He doesn't have any holes." … Sabres sniper Thomas Vanek was replaced in the lineup by defenceman Nathan Paetsch, who took a rare turn at forward and scored his first goal of the season. Vanek missed his second game in a row with an abdominal injury. … Rickard Wallin and Garnet Exelby were healthy scratches for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Next game Wednesday, at New York Islanders, 7 p.m. (EST)
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