BUFFALO, N.Y. - After two straight losses to start the season, Ryan Miller was determined to get his slumping team in gear.
Miller made 20 saves for his fifth career shutout, Tim Connolly and Brian Campbell each had a goal and two assists and the Buffalo Sabres got their first win of the season, 6-0 over winless Atlanta on Thursday night.
"Not that I was slacking off in the summer, but I had to really put the pedal down because we want to be an elite team," said Miller, who had allowed nine goals in Buffalo's first two defeats. "I need to be there for the guys when they need me."
Miller wasn't tested much by a sputtering Atlanta offence that has generated just four goals in its first four games, all regulation losses. But when he needed to make a key save to help keep Buffalo's momentum going, Miller was there.
"That's the kind of attitude we need to have," he said.
It was also an emotional game for Miller, whose 18-year-old cousin died Monday after a complication with a bone-marrow transplant.
"For him to go through what he did wasn't easy," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It was a special night for him. I wanted to see him get the shutout."
After winning the President's Trophy last season, the Sabres had gotten off to a sluggish start, dropping their first two games to the New York Islanders. They quickly got healthy against a struggling Thrashers team that is off to its worst start since dropping the first nine games of the 2002-03 season.
Buffalo scored three power-play goals in the first period, and didn't allow a shot when Atlanta had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:34 in the first.
"Special teams are a big momentum booster," Connolly said. "Killing that two-man advantage kept us going in the right direction."
Derek Roy, Ales Kotalik and Daniel Paille added a goal and an assist each, and Jason Pominville also scored for the Sabres.
Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen finished with 15 saves before being lifted for Johan Hedberg to start the third period. Hedberg made seven saves.
The Thrashers were without forward Marian Hossa for the second straight game. Hossa, who had team highs of 43 goals and 57 assists last season, hurt his groin during practice on Monday.
"Right now we're not playing good hockey," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "We're so tight and anxious to get that first win that we forget to do the right things."
The Sabres netted the game's first three goals in a 9:07 span in the first period, starting with Kotalik's power-play goal three minutes in. Making his season debut after missing the first two games with a knee injury, Kotalik shovelled the puck into an open net while standing next to the left post two feet from the goal line.
Connolly made it 2-0 with another power-play goal at 11:01. With the Sabres already enjoying a one-man advantage, Connolly scored while a delayed penalty was about to be called on the Thrashers' Jim Slater.
Campbell's power-play goal made it 3-0 just 66 seconds later when his slap shot from the right point deflected off a stick in front of Lehtonen.
Pominville increased Buffalo's lead to 4-0 with a short-handed goal with 7???? minutes left in the second period, and Roy made it 5-0 with just 2.8 seconds left in the middle frame.
Paille capped the scoring with 27 seconds left in the third.
Despite the impressive win, Campbell thinks the Sabres can play better.
"It's one game, so we'll leave it at that," he said. "Our goal isn't just tonight. We want to get on a run here and keep going."
Notes: Before the game, the Thrashers recalled forward Darren Haydar from Chicago of the AHL. ... Buffalo entered the night having played the fewest games in the league. ... The Sabres began a four-game homestand. ... Atlanta is in the midst of playing 10 of its first 14 games on the road. ... Since arriving in the league in 1970, the Sabres have never opened a season with three consecutive losses.