Thomas Vanek got a glimpse of life alongside Cody Hodgson at the end of last season. The two skated together for the final 11 outings, and Vanek put up a point per game with three goals and eight assists. Obviously, he liked the combination.

Hodgson's audition next to the Buffalo Sabres' most potent scorer deserved an encore, so coach Lindy Ruff began the season Sunday with the center in the middle of Vanek and right wing Jason Pominville. Obviously, Vanek still likes it.

Vanek had the best day of his career during a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia, scoring twice and adding three assists as a sellout crowd in First Niagara Center welcomed the NHL back in a rollicking way.

"It's a lot of luck when you get that many points," said Vanek, who had the best outing by a Buffalo player in five years. "I was fortunate every pass I made went in, and when I scored, I scored. You won't have many of those nights. You enjoy it, you like the win and you move on."

Vanek can attribute the outing to luck all he wants, but he earned the avalanche of points. He skated hard, controlled pucks, made nice passes and tortured the Flyers and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

"He's got a lot of special talents, and he used them all," said Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, who snapped a 2-2 tie with 5:03 left.

Myers' goal was one of three power-play tallies for the Sabres, who went 3 for 6 with the man advantage in a game that featured 20 penalties. Steve Ott opened the scoring and Hodgson added the fourth goal. Pominville had three assists.

"That line was the difference," Ruff said. "Van was fabulous, [Hodgson] was terrific and Pommer was right somewhere between those two. We look at those guys as being our top line that can push us to that next level."

Hodgson is embracing the top-line opportunity he has craved. He wanted out of Vancouver because he was stuck on the third line, and skating with Pominville and Vanek means significant minutes.