ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The focus was supposed to be on two brothers playing against each other in the NHL for the first time—Drew and Ryan Miller. That all became a postscript once Anaheim general manager Brian Burke announced that the Niedermayer brothers would be reunited for another season.
The news about playoff MVP Scott Niedermayer’s return lifted the spirits of the struggling Ducks on Wednesday night. Andy McDonald had a goal and an assist, Mathieu Schneider and Corey Perry scored power-play goals, and the defending Stanley Cup champions snapped a 10-game winless streak against the Buffalo Sabres with a 4-1 victory.
Niedermayer spent five months contemplating retirement and wanted to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with his family before coming to a decision. He wasn’t in the arena, but when Burke’s opening remarks were replayed before the game on the video board the game and again during the first intermission, the sellout crowd of 17,174 crowd roared its approval.
“I was pretty thrilled,” said Rob Niedermayer, who got the word from his big brother by phone on Tuesday. “For sure, I’ve had a lot of fun playing with him the last two years, and I know it was a tough decision for him. I know everyone in this room is happy to have him back.
“Being allowed to make a decision on his own time and relax, that was big. I don’t think that would happen with a lot of organizations, and this one’s run pretty classy.”
Jochen Hecht scored for the Sabres, who made their first visit to Anaheim since Oct. 24, 2003. Ryan Miller made 29 saves. The last time they lost to the Anaheim was Jan. 1, 1999, when Teemu Selanne scored three goals against Dominik Hasek in the Ducks’ 7-2 victory in Buffalo.
“We came out and played a hard-nosed game,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who scored his second goal in 15 games with Anaheim and got into a fight with Buffalo center Paul Gustad in the third period. “I haven’t played against Buffalo in a long time, either, and I think why the NHL’s making a correction in the schedule. There are rivalries out there to be had. And to be honest, it’s pretty nice seeing a different team in the building.”
Selanne, a 10-time All-Star who led the Ducks last season with 48 goals and 94 points, is still deciding whether to come back or retire following his first Stanley Cup title in 15 NHL seasons. Selanne became a father for the fourth time Wednesday, when wife Sirpa delivered the couple’s first daughter.
This was the first time Ryan Miller played professionally against brother Drew, a left wing.
“I approached it as something that would be fun,” said Drew, who got two shots on net on his brother. “Our team wanted to win, his team wanted to win, so you’ve got to draw the line there and just go out and play your best. I had a couple of chances on him and he shut the door on me, so I’m sure he’ll let me hear about that. But I got a couple of good bumps against him.”
Both brothers enjoyed enormous success with their respective teams last season. Drew won a Stanley Cup ring with Anaheim, while Ryan made the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a starter and had a franchise-record 40 victories to help the Sabres win the President’s Trophy.
“It was a unique experience,” Ryan said. “You don’t ever grow up expecting to play in the NHL. We shared that dream and we both have seen it come true. I thought Drew played a strong game, for the ice time he had, and he got some opportunities on me. I’m just glad my parents and grandparents were here.”
Neither team went on the power play until Buffalo defenseman Jaroslav Spacek received minor penalties 3:11 apart in the second period. The Sabres survived the first short-handed situation, but the Ducks took a 2-1 lead at 12:22 while Spacek was serving a hooking penalty.
Schneider scored on a one-timer from the top of the right circle while Bertuzzi and Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera were screening Miller. About 6 minutes later, McDonald skated past Adam Mair along the left boards and threw the puck toward the crease, where Bertuzzi redirected it past Miller with defenseman Toni Lydman a step behind.
The Sabres scored first for the eighth consecutive game, after giving up the first goal in each of their previous 14 contests. Hecht converted a cross-ice pass from Jason Pominville at 4:07 of the opening period during a 2-on-1 break.
Niedermayer had two years and $13.5 million remaining on his contract when the season began. So far, he has lost about $2.3 million in salary, an amount that will keep increasing until he plays his next game in about a week to 10 days. … Chris Pronger, another Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, will continue wearing the captain’s “C” after Niedermayer returns. … Anaheim outshot Buffalo 16-3 in the second period. … Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 22 saves for the Ducks.