VANCOUVER — The last time Ryan Miller faced the Toronto Maple Leafs his night ended with an ejection following a wild line brawl.
The veteran goalie for the Canucks wrapped Saturday's much-anticipated rematch in a more familiar fashion, making 38 saves in regulation and overtime, plus two more in the shootout, as Vancouver downed Toronto 3-2.
The 36-year-old wasn't even sure if he was going to start after allowing a weak goal in Thursday's 3-1 loss to Anaheim — a flub that killed any chance of a comeback.
But head coach Willie Desjardins went back to Miller, and he repaid that faith with a stellar performance, especially late with the young Leafs pressing.
"Willie gave me a chance," said Miller. "He said in front of all the guys I would be going. I needed to get my head on straight. I took the time to get refocused. I knew I had to be better.
"Willie believes in his guys. I made a pretty big mistake there. I wanted to show I could go out and compete and try and pull one off."
Markus Granlund and Bo Horvat scored in the shootout for Vancouver (11-12-2), while Daniel Sedin and Sven Baertschi had the Canucks' goals in regulation.
James van Riemsdyk and Auston Matthews replied for Toronto (10-9-5), which got 22 saves from Frederik Andersen.
Mitch Marner scored in the shootout for the Leafs, but Miller stoned Matthews on the Leafs' first shot and then Tyler Bozak to clinch it after Brandon Sutter was stopped by Andersen on Vancouver's third attempt.
"We played well. You've got to give Miller a lot of credit, I thought he did a nice job for them, kind of held the fort there," said Toronto head coach Mike Babcock. "When you play good like this, you leave satisfied."
Down 2-1 after 40 minutes, the Leafs came out flying in the third and tied the game on Matthews' 11th of the season after the Canucks were punished for successive icings. Zach Hyman collected a deflected point shot and fed the No. 1 overall pick at the 2016 draft, who fired a quick wrist shot past Miller in front of the net at 1:56 for his fifth goal in the last five games.
Matthews looked set to give Toronto its first lead on a power play midway through the period, but the puck hopped over his stick on one chance before Miller made a nice pad save.
"He played a great game," said Matthews. "At the same time it's our job to put our puck in the net, but he definitely stood on his head there for a while in the third period."
The Vancouver netminder snagged Bozak's shot from in tight with 2:22 left in regulation, and Canucks defenceman Troy Stecher then cleared a loose puck out the crease with just over a minute to go to force overtime after Miller got a piece of Connor Brown's shot.
"I knew I got a lot of it," said Miller. "I had a sinking feeling when I saw two people rushing behind me.
"You need everybody. I'm glad he was there."
Nazem Kadri had two good chances in overtime for Toronto, while Andersen reached back to deny Stecher with the glove on Vancouver's best opportunity.
"I thought we deserved a better fate," said van Riemsdyk. "That was a really fun game to play in."
A lot of the talk ahead of Saturday's 4 p.m. local time start had to do with what, if anything, the Canucks would do following that fight-filled 6-3 blowout loss to the Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 5.
Kadri, Morgan Rielly and Matt Martin were among the villains from a Vancouver perspective after that one — Kadri for the blindside hit to the shoulder/head area of Daniel Sedin, Rielly for an open-ice check on Jannik Hansen and Martin for pummelling Stecher in an exchange that led to a donnybrook where Miller and Andersen were among the players tossed.
Canucks defenceman Erik Gudbranson shouted "Matt Martin is dead" to media assembled outside the locker-rooms in the immediate aftermath, but said this week the comments were simply threats made in the heat of the moment.
But after Baertschi doubled Vancouver's lead 2:37 into the second period on a botched deke for his fourth, Gudbranson and Martin dropped the gloves in a spirited fight that saw both players deliver a steady diet of right hands, much to the delight of the energetic crowd at Rogers Arena.
"I'm an honest guy and I'll always defend what I say. That's what it came down to," said Gudbranson. "We kind of both knew that it was going to go down at some point. We kind of just nodded."
The fisticuffs seemed to spark the Leafs, who were on their heels in the first before finding their legs, eventually finishing the third period and overtime with an 18-5 edge in shots.
"It was a great fight, a lot of emotion," said Marner. "It was the kind of thing that turned around the game for us."
Andersen, who missed Friday's practice due to illness after backing up in Thursday's 3-0 loss to Calgary, made a nice save later in the period on a Loui Eriksson deflection to keep his team within two before Toronto struck just 13 seconds into a power play.
Miller stopped Bozak's one-timer from the face-off circle, but van Riemsdyk banged home the rebound for his 11th with 8:30 left in the period.
The Canucks opened the scoring with 6:57 left in the first when Daniel Sedin's one-timer from the point deflected off Toronto's Roman Polak in the slot and past Andersen for his seventh.
"We wanted to finish this homestand with two points," said Sedin. "That was our focus tonight. Our effort wasn't good enough against Anaheim. We wanted to get back to playing a good, sound game."
Notes: Hansen suffered broken ribs on the Rielly hit a month ago and hasn't played since. ... Vancouver's top defence pair of Christopher Tanev (lower-body injury) and Alexander Edler (broken finger) remain on the shelf. ... The Canucks kick off a five-game road trip in New Jersey on Tuesday. ... The Leafs play six of their next seven at home starting Wednesday against Minnesota.
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