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Sabres snap slide by beating Thrashers 4-1

by John Manasso
ATLANTA - As Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller attempted to conduct something resembling a postgame interview following Thursday night's 4-1 win over the Thrashers, teammate Paul Gaustad continually bellowed in the small visiting locker room at Philips Arena, his baritone reverberating off the walls.

"Cody McCormick in three minutes!" Gaustad cried.

"Apparently, I'm supposed to talk about Cody McCormick," Miller said, interrupting himself to laughter, "and how hot he is."

Buffalo, which had followed up its season-opening win on Oct. 8 with five consecutive losses, finally had something to feel good about.

"Oh, yeah, we didn't do any ourselves any favors in those five games," Miller said of a streak that included three straight one-goal losses. "Tonight we made it a little bit easier by working together and carrying the puck. I thought it was really good."

Taking advantage of a Thrashers team that was coming off a three-game Western road trip -- coach Craig Ramsay called his squad's play "sloppy" -- Buffalo dominated play all night and outshot Atlanta 42-18. Atlanta had just two shots in the first period and did not register its first until 5:33 remained in the period.

The Sabres staked themselves to a 3-0 lead less than 23 minutes into the game. Tyler Ennis became the first of three Sabres to notch their first goal of the season in the team's sixth game when he opened the scoring at 5:03 of the first period by taking advantage of an Atlanta turnover in the neutral zone. Ennis, a 2008 first-round pick who is listed at 5-foot-9, 157 pounds, skated free to the left circle and beat Chris Mason to the stick side with a wrist shot.

Tyler Myers made it 2-0 six seconds after Atlanta received a penalty for too many men on the ice. The Sabres won the faceoff, and Myers' shot from the left point deflected off two Atlanta players for the goal at 1:30 of the second period.

"We can't play all year long taking too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties," Ramsay said.

Buffalo entered the game 2-for-24 (8.3 percent) on the power play.

"Yeah, either way it felt good to capitalize on the power play," Myers said. "We've been struggling a little bit with that here at the start so it felt good to get one tonight."

After the aforementioned McCormick, who had 10 goals in 195 career NHL games prior to Saturday but now has two in his last two, scored 64 seconds after Myers, Ramsay called his timeout. McCormick finished off a 2-on-2 with the noisome Gaustad, who skated down the left side. Mason stopped his wrist shot from close range but McCormick pounced on the loose puck and cashed in the rebound.

Ramsay said he tried to remind his team during the timeout that they had been there before and rallied to come back. He said that the Thrashers were "doing crazy things" and that Buffalo was "just picking us apart."

The Thrashers escaped the rest of the period scoreless and seemed as if they might make a game of it when Tobias Enstrom got them on the board just 1:47 into the third period, as he ripped home a slap shot on the power play, helped by Anthony Stewart's screen of Miller, at 1:47 of the third.

But Thomas Vanek ended any chance of a comeback when he beat Mason just inside the far post from the right circle at 10:25 off a set play following a faceoff win in Buffalo's end. The goal was the sharp-shooting Vanek's first of the season. Earlier, he had one disallowed, as it was ruled that he played the puck with a high stick.

"That was a bullet," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Vanek's goal. "It was a nice play off the faceoff and he took advantage of it."

So while Buffalo snapped a five-game losing streak, Atlanta had a two-game winning streak come to an end despite a 38-save performance by Mason. Ramsay said the Thrashers' had a "built-in" excuse for their worst effort of the season after a 3-2-0 start because of the return from the West Coast. But, he said, they wouldn't have that excuse to use any longer.

"As a group, we looked slow," he said. "We didn't look like the team on the West Coast. We looked tonight like a team that was tired. I don't think we should be tired … It seemed more mental."
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