Ryan Miller, for the second straight home game, raised his glove hand in response to crowd noise. This time, the goaltender was acknowledging cheers. Miller, in perhaps his final game as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, heard hearty applause 1:17 into Friday’s season finale when the team announced he was playing in his 500th NHL game. He became the 62nd goalie to reach the milestone and just the 20th to do it with a single team. The game’s First Star got to celebrate with a victory. Miller stopped made 30 saves through 65 minutes of game action, then stopped all three breakaways in the shootout as Buffalo topped the New York Islanders, 2-1. Thomas Vanek scored the only goal in the shootout as the Sabres finished the season with a 21-21-6 record. After the game, Sabres’ forward Jochen Hecht announced his retirement from the NHL; he will return to Germany. Miller enters the offseason surrounded by uncertainty about his playing future. The Sabres are rebuilding, and the 32-year-old has just one season remaining on his contract. It’s unclear whether the team wants him to be part of the makeover, or whether he’s willing to be. In addition to the in-game applause, the fans clapped loudly for Miller before the puck dropped. Sabres players voted on three team awards – Most Valuable Player, Unsung Hero and Rookie of the Year – and they named Miller as Buffalo’s MVP. Some fans rose to their feet as the goaltender skated to center ice to accept his award from Sabres President Ted Black. Thomas Vanek is in the same situation with one year left on his contract. The team’s top offensive talent wants to sit down with management to hear its plans. If it becomes clear during the discussions that he’d sign elsewhere, the Sabres might try to move him to avoid losing a valuable asset for nothing. “I have one more year left,” Vanek said. “I haven’t heard otherwise.” The only goal of the opening 40 minutes came from the stick of Buffalo’s Brian Flynn. The Islanders failed in their clearing attempt, and Vanek collected the puck. He spotted Flynn streaking through the slot, and Vanek set up the rookie for a shot that beat Evgeni Nabokov with 3:29 gone in the second period. The Islanders tied the game and snapped Miller’s bid for a shutout with 12:34 remaining in regulation. The goalie left his crease to play a dump-in, but it hopped off the boards and he couldn’t reach it. New York’s Keith Aucoin swooped in and beat the scrambling Miller as groans came from the sellout crowd of 19,070.
Ryan Miller get victory in his 500th career game for SabresUPDATED 5:53 PM HST Apr 26, 2013