Maybe Lindy Ruff had a moment of closure Monday night.

Ruff returned to Buffalo, where he served for 15 years as head coach, and received a heartwarming ovation in the first period from an appreciative crowd at First Niagara Center. But he left as the coach of the Stars after battling in an intense game that resulted in a hard-fought 4-3 victory.

“I definitely think it was a big night in a lot of ways,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “One, we don’t realize how much he means to this town and how much it means to him until you see it. And two, that was a heck of a battle, and we had to really dig in as a team to win it.”

The Sabres entered as the NHL’s worst team at 2-10-1 with several statistical categories at rock bottom, including a goals-for average of 1.46. They also were dealing with the murmur of a fire sale surrounding the team after a trade sent leading scorer Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson and two draft picks.

But a funny thing happened Monday. With all of the emotion swirling, the Sabres found a little bit of moxie. After getting pushed around and trailing, 4-1, Buffalo fought back and made a game of it. The Sabres pushed the score to 4-3 in the second period and forced the Stars to hang on through a frantic third perod that saw Kari Lehtonen making three saves in the final five seconds.

“It was a good finish, a hard finish, and I’m glad we could win for him [Ruff],” Lehtonen said. “I thought it was a big game for us.”

The Stars are 5-5-1 and 2-4-0 on the road. They’ll be in Montreal on Tuesday for the dreaded back-to-back.

“We’re making progress,” said center Tyler Seguin, who had a goal and an assist. “Now, we have to keep building on it.”

Dallas made several noticeable strides forward early in the game. The Stars were more physical and more intense in puck battles They also worked harder to get to the net. That resulted in a 3-1 lead after the first period.