BUFFALO, N.Y. - Terry Pegula loved what he saw in person from his new team, even if he observed most of it on television.
Tyler Myers had a goal and assist, and Ryan Miller made 40 saves to lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night in front of new Sabres owner Pegula, who spent the majority of the game in the back of the owner's box watching it on TV with three of the most famous players in team history.
"I had a great time," said Pegula, who admitted he nearly fell over at centre ice during a pre-game ceremony when the Sabres' 1970s "French Connection" line of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert skated toward him.
Pegula received a standing ovation that lasted just over a minute before heading upstairs with the trio to witness a much-needed win for his new club.
Paul Gaustad, Jason Pominville, and Tyler Ennis also scored for the Sabres (28-25-6), who snapped a three-game losing streak to win the fourth game of a season-long six-game homestand.
The Sabres and Thrashers came in tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 60 points. With the win, Buffalo moved within three points of idle Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot with two games in hand.
Pegula addressed the team in the locker-room afterward, and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff then presented the game puck to the Pennsylvania billionaire.
"You definitely get energy from having him around," Miller said about Pegula. "It's nice to see him happy with the effort."
After scoring just twice in the previous three games, the Sabres' offence was able to get back on track.
"We moved better in the offensive zone," Ruff said. "We were able to find people and make some nice plays."
Andrew Ladd scored, and Ondrej Pavelec finished with 35 saves for the slumping Thrashers (25-26-10), who lost their fourth straight to drop to 3-11-4 over the past 18 games.
"We've got to find a way to turn the tide," Ladd said. "We're running out of time."
Atlanta fell to 0-5-1 over its past six road games, and 1-6-2 in its past nine away from home.
"Forty shots on the road, and we found a way to lose," Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. "We have five home games coming up. We need five wins."
Up 3-1 after 40 minutes, the Sabres increased their lead to 4-1 just under two minutes into the third period on Ennis' 13th goal of the season.
Down by a goal after the first period, Ladd tied it 1-1 for Atlanta with a power-play tally 5:31 into the second period. He corralled a loose puck at the edge of the crease near the left post before lifting it over a sprawled Miller for his team-leading 22nd goal.
Gaustad restored Buffalo's lead with his ninth of the season with 1:08 left in the second, and Pominville pushed the advantage to 3-1 when he banged home a rebound off Myers' shot from the point 30 seconds later.
"We have to play smarter there," Pavelec said. "We took a shift off and they scored the goals."
Buffalo opened the scoring when Myers notched his ninth of the season with a slap shot from the outer edge of the right circle 7:13 into the game.
"It was a good all-around effort," Myers said. "We did exactly what we wanted to do in the third, getting that fourth goal. There were still moments where I thought we could have been better, but for the most part it was good."
Notes:Sabres D Steve Montador played in his 500th career NHL game. ... Buffalo waived captain Craig Rivet hours before the game. ... Thrashers defenceman Dustin Byfuglien had an assist on Ladd's goal. He entered as the fourth-leading scorer among defencemen with 45 points. ... Atlanta has scored at least one power-play goal in four of its past six games. ... Miller improved to 5-0-1 in his past six home starts against the Thrashers. ... Buffalo finishes the homestand against Ottawa on Friday and Detroit on Saturday.