Ducks give retiring Ryan Miller a proper sendoff with rout of Kings – Daily News

ANAHEIM — It was billed as Fan Appreciation Night on Saturday at Honda Center.

In reality, it was Ryan Miller Appreciation Night.

How could it have been anything else, with Miller making his Honda Center farewell after announcing Thursday he would retire after the season, after 18 Hall of Fame-worthy years in the NHL, including the last four with the Ducks?

Miller received a proper sendoff from the Ducks in the form of a 6-2 victory over the Kings, the 391st win of a career that began in 2002-03 with the Buffalo Sabres and continued with the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks before ending in Anaheim.

“It made me pretty happy to see the boys excited, and things were going their way and, obviously, they were happy for me,” Miller said. “That was really special, the amount of attention they were able to give me and knowing how much these moments are going to mean.”

The Ducks complete their lost season with games Monday and Wednesday against the Blues in St. Louis and Friday and Saturday against the Wild in St. Paul, Minnesota. Miller said he might play in one of the final two games against Minnesota.

“This is a tuneup for that one, I guess,” Miller said, laughing.

If his start Saturday against the Kings was to be the last of his 795 games, then it couldn’t have gone much smoother, from the Ducks’ six-goal outburst, their first home victory in more than a month and the warm reception of the fans.

By game’s end, Miller made 23 saves, stopping all but third-period goals by Brendan Lemieux and Tobias Bjornfot, who scored his first in the NHL. The 25th and last shot he faced was a slapper from Andreas Athanasiou, who tapped him on the pads as he skated past.

“We have to get over the fact that we are where we are,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Let’s face it, we’re not going to make the playoffs. I may as well say it right now. We’re not going to make the playoffs. I just don’t see how that’s going to happen.”

Trevor Zegras, Danton Heinen, Nicolas Deslauriers, Max Jones, Jacob Larsson and Max Comtois scored for the Ducks. Heinen and Larsson each had two assists. The Ducks built a 4-0 lead by the opening minutes of the third period, easing Miller’s burden.

When it was done, and the Ducks left their bench to embrace Miller, the Kings waited patiently for their turns to congratulate him. Miller’s wife Noureen and their son Bodhi then came onto the ice to pose for family photos. Soon, the Ducks crowded around for a team shot or 20.

“It was definitely a different experience than I’m used to,” Miller said. “I’ve always been kind of an intense player, so I just tried to tell myself to take everything in. I knew there would be some chances for Noureen and Bodhi to be around in warmup and make sure he was going to have a good experience and Noureen was going to get the picture she wanted so we’d have something to remember.”

Miller hit the ice first for the pregame warmup, as is customary. But he was followed by his teammates all dressed in his No. 30 jerseys as a pregame tribute. The jerseys were all ones he had worn during his four-season Ducks tenure, some fitting his teammates better than others.

As the warmup concluded, Miller was the last of the Ducks to leave the ice for the dressing room, collecting pucks and flipping them over the glass to adoring fans who had lined up to cheer him. It brought to mind his swap of a puck for Girl Scout Cookies a few seasons back.

The crowd, which was limited to 1,717 or 10 percent of capacity because of COVID-19 restrictions, rose later to give Miller a standing ovation after a video tribute played on the overhanging scoreboard during a TV timeout in the first period. It wasn’t difficult to imagine Miller growing emotional.

Miller had a difficult time composing himself during the opening minutes of his Zoom call to announce his retirement Thursday, but he said there was no repeat Saturday. He said he had gotten it out of his system two days ago and was instead focused on the task at hand.

“It was nice to say a proper goodbye here in Anaheim,” he said. “My time here has been very special to me. I know it’s not the normal situation, but I wanted the opportunity to say goodbye and this was the runway I was given. It’s pretty special and I’m hoping to enjoy another game, too.”

 

 

 


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