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Sabres 4, Thrashers 1 @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Four nights ago, Ryan Miller's teammates picked him up following a shaky start. Miller returned the favor Friday.

Miller, who allowed three first-period goals to the New York Islanders in Buffalo's 6-3 come-from-behind win on Monday, made 34 saves to help lift the Sabres to a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers Friday night.

Miller helped bail out a Buffalo team that started out sluggish following a draining 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto the night before.

"I don't know if that's the case, but we trade on and off all the time," Miller said. "They did a good job penalty killing tonight, and they did me a lot of favors as well."

Miller has won all four of his starts since returning from a broken thumb, and has allowed just one goal in three of those games.

After making 16 stops in the second period, his bid for his first shutout of the year was foiled by Marc Savard, who scored a short-handed goal with 6 minutes left to make it 3-1.

"He was solid," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He saw everything and was totally under control. He gave us momentum."

"It's the first time I've seen him, and he looked pretty good," Savard said. "He made some big saves."

Chris Drury had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Vanek, Maxim Afinogenov, and Mike Grier also scored for the Sabres, who have won 18 of their past 22.

The Sabres have not lost consecutive games since dropping four straight in early November, when Miller was hurt.

"We don't like losing," said Derek Roy, who contributed two assists. "It seems like when we lose we come back with a better effort. We just don't want to lose two in a row."

Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen, making his first start since injuring his groin in the first period of the Thrashers' opener, finished with 25 saves. The second pick in the 2002 draft missed 35 games because of the injury.

Lehtonen got the first loss of his career after going 4-0 during a late-season call-up in 2003-04.

"I didn't have any pain at all," Lehtonen said. "A couple of goals I wasn't very happy about. It feels bad because we played a great game."

Coming in, Atlanta had at least a point in a team-record nine consecutive games.

After a scoreless first period, Drury scored a power-play goal 51 seconds into the second. Drury, who has three goals in his last four games, banked a shot off Lehtonen's right shoulder while standing at the bottom of the left circle for his 14th of the season.

Vanek increased Buffalo's lead with another power-play goal. The rookie made a nifty move around defenseman Greg deVries in the left circle before shoveling a bouncing puck past Lehtonen for his 11th goal.

Afinogenov made it 3-0 with 6:35 left in the third with his ninth of the season, and Grier capped the scoring with 5 minutes to go with his fifth of the year.

Atlanta finished 0-for-8 on the power play, and has failed to score a goal with the man advantage in three of its last six games.

"Their best penalty killer was Miller," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "They deserved to win and they beat us."

It was Atlanta's first loss in regulation since a 5-3 defeat at San Jose on Dec. 6.

"That was a game we were in," said Savard, who scored his 17th goal. "The score is not indicative of the whole game."

Notes: Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere was diagnosed with a sports hernia on Friday, and will miss 2-3 months after he undergoes surgery early next week. ... Buffalo began a season-high six-game homestand. ... Atlanta forward Brad Larsen missed his fifth straight game with a groin injury. ... Atlanta killed a franchise record-tying 22 consecutive penalties until Drury's goal. ... The Thrashers began a stretch in which they will play five games in eight days.

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