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Nash scores, Leclaire stops 21 shots for third shutout victory

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are tired of
being the NHL's punching bag.

Pascal Leclaire made 21 saves for his third shutout of the
season and fourth overall, and Rick Nash had a goal and an assist
to help the Blue Jackets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 on Friday
night.

Nash scored in the second period, 62 seconds after he was denied
by goalie Ryan Miller on the NHL's first penalty shot of the
season.

With seven points, Columbus is off to its best start since
joining the NHL in 2000. And after not finishing above 11th place
in the Western Conference in their six prior seasons, the Blue
Jackets are determined to contend for a playoff spot come April.

"We're a team that wants to win, and we're not going to settle
for mediocrity," said Michael Peca, who added a goal and an assist
while playing on a line with Nash and Nikolai Zherdev for the
second straight game. "We're not going to settle for complacency.
We're no longer the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets. We want to be
a force in our conference."

That shouldn't be a problem if they continue to get the type of
goaltending they are receiving from three-year veteran Leclaire,
and the outstanding two-way play of budding star Nash.

Leclaire was able to bounce back from a 5-1 loss at Colorado
last Saturday, and will try to extend a 150:22 home shutout streak
that dates back to last year if he plays on Sunday against
Vancouver.

"We've been solid since the beginning of the season," he said.
"It's always a team effort in a game like this."

Nash, meanwhile, recorded his second straight two-point game,
and was determined to vindicate himself after his failed penalty
shot.

Nash was awarded it with nearly 8 minutes left in the second
period. After accepting a pass at the middle of the Buffalo
blueline, he got a step on Henrik Tallinder before the defenseman
hooked and impeded Nash's short breakaway attempt.

Nash tried to beat Miller with a wrist shot on the stick side,
but the goalie stopped the drive with his blocker.

"It's a 1-on-1 play, so when I miss I feel like I've let down
the guys," Nash said.

Undaunted, Nash scored his fourth of the year with 6:50 left in
the second on the power play. From behind the goal line, the big
forward skated with the puck to the inner edge of the right circle
before depositing a wrist shot into the net on, ironically,
Miller's stick side.

Zherdev scored an empty-net goal to cap the scoring for the Blue
Jackets, who got their first road victory in three tries.

Buffalo, last season's highest-scoring team, was shut out for
the first time since April 2006 -- a span of 95 regular-season games
-- and had its three-game winning streak snapped. The Sabres
finished their four-game homestand 3-1.

Miller made 26 saves.

"They made it tough for us," he said. "We didn't get our
offense going the way we wanted to at all."

Peca, who was the Sabres captain from 1997-2000, gave the Blue
Jackets a 1-0 lead 6 1/2 minutes into the second frame. After Miller
stopped Nash's shot, Peca chipped home the rebound on the backhand
for his first point of the season.

Leclaire didn't have to make any spectacular stops, but still
gave the Blue Jackets another solid outing.

"He's on the mark," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said.
"That's what you need to win in the game right now. ... You have
to have great goaltending."

Game notes
Miller has stopped all five penalty shots in his career,
while Nash has failed on all three of his penalty shots. ... Sabres
D Jaroslav Spacek missed his first game because of a shoulder
injury sustained in Monday's win over Toronto. Spacek is also
expected to miss Saturday's game in Montreal. ... Columbus forward
Fredrik Modin missed his second game because of a groin injury. ...
It was the first visit to Buffalo for the Blue Jackets since 1994.
... Columbus has scored the first goal in five of its six games.