Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards wanted a fast start this time, and his team delivered.
"Everyone's been talking about us getting off to slow starts," Richards said. "That's one thing we're trying to guard against. We want to get off on the right foot here."
Columbus started 2-5 and 2-5-1 the past two seasons, but showed no signs of rust as it dominated the Buffalo Sabres in a comprehensive 3-1 win to open the season Thursday night.
"We didn't have any passengers tonight," Richards said. "It was a total team effort."
Cam Atkinson scored the tiebreaking goal on a third-period power play, and Artem Anisimov and Jack Skille also scored for the Blue Jackets, who went to the playoffs as an Eastern Conference wild card last season.
"You get all the kinks out in the preseason and that's where all the sloppy hockey comes," Atkinson said. "You never know what to expect with the first game, especially when both sides have a lot of adrenaline."
Zemgus Girgensons scored for Buffalo, and Jhonas Enroth made 37 saves.
Columbus got 21 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky. Atkinson snapped a 1-all tie with 7:15 remaining, working the puck back and forth with Ryan Johansen before beating Enroth.
Johansen just ended a contentious and public training camp holdout by signing a three-year contract extension Monday, and played well despite the layoff.
"I'm sure a lot of people and fans didn't know what to expect from him tonight and it was a typical Johansen that we all love," Atkinson said. "He created a lot of space for me and (Nick Foligno) and we got a lot of scoring chances."
Sabres owner Terry Pegula was in the building one day after being unanimously approved as the new owner of the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
The Sabres had the worst record in the NHL by 14 points last season and didn't give the fans much offensive excitement.
Head coach Ted Nolan wasn't happy.
"I didn't like our effort tonight," Nolan said. "I think it was OK at best. I don't know what it was. I think guys really wanted to do it."
Buffalo's start was promising, but Bobrovsky stood firm. He made a strong right blocker save on Andre Benoit early in the first period and was forced to make a point-blank save on Chris Stewart moments later as the Sabres reeled off four straight shots.
For his part, Enroth made a pair of in-close saves during the Blue Jackets' first power play and benefited from a shot that hit the post.
Buffalo's second overall draft pick, Sam Reinhart, was hit hard near the midway point of the first by Blue Jackets right wing Jared Boll, who soon found himself face-to-face with Mike Weber. Both took roughing penalties.
"You're told what it's like, but until you get that game experience you don't understand," Reinhart said of his first NHL game. "It's certainly a little bit different from the preseason. I think I got better as the game went on and I felt my confidence get higher as the game passed."
Scott Hartnell redirected a shot off the crossbar late in the first, and Enroth stopped Mark Letestu on a 1-on-1 before the period expired.
Skille scored first at 13:21 of the second period. Skating down the right side, he took a snap shot that beat Enroth high, popping the lid off the goalie's water bottle and sending liquid flying through the air behind the net.
The goal was a relief for Skille, who left Columbus for the New York Islanders in the offseason but was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jackets on Sunday.
"It's good to be back in this room, back on this team," he said. "It's unfortunate what happened with the Islanders. I'd like to thank them for the opportunity, but I'm glad to be back home and with this group."
Girgensons countered just more than a minute later when he stickhandled his way through the Blue Jackets' defense before flipping a puck past Bobrovsky.
The Sabres earned their first power play when Fedor Tyutin took a hooking penalty at 9:09 of the third. That was interrupted by a hooking call to Brian Gionta, and Atkinson made the most of Columbus' fourth power play by maneuvering around Benoit and beating Enroth at 12:45.
"When they tied it up there I felt they had a little momentum," Johansen said. "But we did a good job of weathering them and we just kept plugging away on our side and started taking over the game again."
Anisimov capped the scoring on a soft wrist shot with just more than 2 minutes to play.
NOTES: Only six current Sabres were on the opening-day roster two years ago. ... Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno was born in Buffalo and is the older brother of Sabres left wing Marcus Foligno ... The game was the first as Sabres captain for Gionta, a Rochester native.