BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Columbus Blue Jackets are tired of being the NHL's punching bag.
Pascal Leclaire made 21 saves for his third shutout of the season and fourth overall, and Rick Nash had a goal and an assist to help the Blue Jackets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 on Friday night.
Nash scored in the second period, 62 seconds after he was denied by goalie Ryan Miller on the NHL's first penalty shot of the season.
With seven points, Columbus is off to its best start since joining the NHL in 2000. And after not finishing above 11th place in the Western Conference in their six prior seasons, the Blue Jackets are determined to contend for a playoff spot come April.
"We're a team that wants to win, and we're not going to settle for mediocrity," said Michael Peca, who added a goal and an assist while playing on a line with Nash and Nikolai Zherdev for the second straight game. "We're not going to settle for complacency. We're no longer the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets. We want to be a force in our conference."
That shouldn't be a problem if they continue to get the type of goaltending they are receiving from three-year veteran Leclaire, and the outstanding two-way play of budding star Nash.
Leclaire was able to bounce back from a 5-1 loss at Colorado last Saturday, and will try to extend a 150:22 home shutout streak that dates back to last year if he plays on Sunday against Vancouver.
"We've been solid since the beginning of the season," he said. "It's always a team effort in a game like this."
Nash, meanwhile, recorded his second straight two-point game, and was determined to vindicate himself after his failed penalty shot.
Nash was awarded it with nearly eight minutes left in the second period. After accepting a pass at the middle of the Buffalo blue-line, he got a step on Henrik Tallinder before the defenceman hooked and impeded Nash's short breakaway attempt.
Nash tried to beat Miller with a wrist shot on the stick side, but the goalie stopped the drive with his blocker.
"It's a 1-on-1 play, so when I miss I feel like I've let down the guys," Nash said.
Undaunted, Nash scored his fourth of the year with 6:50 left in the second on the power play. From behind the goal line, the big forward skated with the puck to the inner edge of the right circle before depositing a wrist shot into the net on, ironically, Miller's stick side.
Zherdev scored an empty-net goal to cap the scoring for the Blue Jackets, who got their first road victory in three tries.
Buffalo, last season's highest-scoring team, was shut out for the first time since April 2006 - a span of 95 regular-season games - and had its three-game winning streak snapped. The Sabres finished their four-game homestand 3-1.
Miller made 26 saves.
"They made it tough for us," he said. "We didn't get our offence going the way we wanted to at all."
Peca, who was the Sabres captain from 1997-2000, gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead 6???? minutes into the second frame. After Miller stopped Nash's shot, Peca chipped home the rebound on the backhand for his first point of the season.
Leclaire didn't have to make any spectacular stops, but still gave the Blue Jackets another solid outing.
"He's on the mark," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's what you need to win in the game right now. ... You have to have great goaltending."
Notes: Miller has stopped all five penalty shots in his career, while Nash has failed on all three of his penalty shots. ... Sabres D Jaroslav Spacek missed his first game because of a shoulder injury sustained in Monday's win over Toronto. Spacek is also expected to miss Saturday's game in Montreal. ... Columbus forward Fredrik Modin missed his second game because of a groin injury. ... It was the first visit to Buffalo for the Blue Jackets since 1994. ... Columbus has scored the first goal in five of its six games.