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Associated Press
12/30/2006 9:51:50 PM


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Thomas Vanek had two goals and an assist, and Ryan Miller made 29 saves in the Buffalo Sabres' 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night in a battle between the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Daniel Briere added a goal and an assist, and Jason Pominville also scored for the Sabres, who have won three straight and four of their last five.

Glen Metropolit scored for the Thrashers, who were denied in their second bid this month to win six straight games for the first time in franchise at history.

Miller was making his third straight start, and has allowed five goals in those games. He got help in the first period when Atlanta forward Jean-Pierre Vigier shot wide on a short-handed, breakaway attempt.

The Thrashers defeated Buffalo 5-4 in a shootout in October, snapping the Sabres' NHL record-tying 10-game winning streak to start the season. The game also featured two of the three highest scoring teams in the league.

Briere opened the scoring nearly seven minutes into the first period with his 15th of the year. Off the rush, Briere converted a tic-tac-toe passing play with Vanek and Maxim Afinogenov, redirecting Vanek's feed over Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Pominville pushed Buffalo's lead to 2-0 with his 18th of the season with 3:15 left in the second period. After Atlanta defenceman Greg de Vries was caught pinching in from the right point, the Sabres broke away on a 3-on-1, with Vitaly Vishnevski the lone defenceman back. Briere found Pominville in the right circle, and the winger took two strides before wristing a shot past Lehtonen.

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