Last night, just about everything went the Bruins' way.
Patrice Bergeron made a successful return before a sellout crowd at TD Banknorth Garden and was among the game's best performers. Tim Thomas looked crisp in his third start of the season. The Bruins generated scoring chances and limited the potent Pittsburgh attack to one-and-done scoring chances.
The only thing that went sour was the outcome.
Tied at 1-1 after 65 minutes, the Penguins claimed the extra point when Petr Sykora and Evgeni Malkin beat Thomas in the shootout. At the other end, Pittsburgh backup Dany Sabourin, giving No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury his first breather of the season, turned aside every Boston shooter but Phil Kessel to cap a 35-save dazzler and backstop the 2-1 shootout win.
"I think, overall, I was happy with our effort," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "We did have some chances, but failed to capitalize on those good opportunities. At the end of it, we came out of it with just a point. I thought we deserved better tonight.
"It wasn't a perfect game and our power play wasn't perfect, but nonetheless, I think we played well enough to win. Unfortunately, same old, same old. In the shootout, we came out on the short end of it."
The result may not have been what the Bruins wanted. But in comparison to the 5-4 season-opening win over Colorado, they played a sharp, well-balanced game that showcased strong offensive pressure and thorough play in their end.
"When there was a rebound, they took care of it," said Thomas (31 saves). "That's the way we want to play. The last two games, the way we've played D is the way we want to play. The last couple games, we've gotten the timing correctly.
"We got a few more goals against Ottawa [Saturday], but we got a lot of chances today. So we're doing the right thing."
A better finishing touch was the missing element.
In the first period, the Bruins went on the power play three times, putting six pucks on Sabourin. Early in the first, Andrew Ference pinged a wrister off the left post after Stephane Yelle won a faceoff. Bergeron took advantage of a Hal Gill turnover to rip a slapper from the slot that Sabourin stopped at 5:33.
But even though the Bruins outshot the Penguins by a 16-10 count in the first period, it was Pittsburgh that held a 1-0 lead.
"I didn't think we should have made it into overtime," said Marc Savard (three shots). "We had some great chances, especially in the first period. With power plays like that, we've got to get some goals.
"We worked hard. We can't be unhappy about our effort. But we want some wins, and getting goals in the net is the way to get them."
Pittsburgh broke through in the first after Dennis Wideman fell in the Pittsburgh zone. Sidney Crosby picked up the puck and started the breakout by threading an up-the-gut pass to the stick of Malkin.
The rangy Russian drove to the net, drawing a delayed penalty on Zdeno Chara (most likely tripping) as he put a backhander on Thomas. The goalie stuffed Malkin's attempt, but winger Miroslav Satan, who had just finished serving a hooking penalty, was in full stride out of the penalty box and in perfect position to find the rebound.
Thomas tried to recover, but Satan tapped the puck over the line at 18:51.
The Bruins struck back in the second period while center Jordan Staal was in the box for holding. David Krejci won a faceoff against Malkin, pulling the puck back to Ference at the point. Ference dished to Kessel, who snapped a rising shot through a Milan Lucic screen and over the glove of Sabourin at 13:53.
And that was that for goal scoring.
In the third, two of Boston's five shots came off the stick of Savard during the same shift: a slapper from the slot that glanced off Sabourin's glove, and another slap shot that the goalie booted out.
"In the third, I thought I scored," said Savard. "I gave it to Phil, he gave it to me from behind the net in the slot, and I even raised my stick. I thought it went in. I don't know how he saw it. Guess it hit his glove or something."
A breathless overtime featured extended three-on-three action (Savard went off for hooking at 3:08, then Staal was nabbed for slashing Wideman at 3:25), including a stretch in which Bergeron was stickless after breaking it during a defensive-zone draw against Crosby.
In the final minute, Thomas stopped an odd-man rush started by defenseman Brooks Orpik, then kicked out a one-timer by defenseman Kris Letang in the final seconds.
In the shootout, while Sykora (backhand) and Malkin (forehand) found the back of the net, Bergeron, Michael Ryder, Krejci, and Savard were denied by Sabourin, who should be strong relief for Fleury if he turns in similar performances.
"I think it was a hard-fought game," Julien said. "We had great goaltending at both ends. Good scoring chances created.
"We came up short in the shootout. That's where we need to get better. We need to finish, especially in the shootout. But as far as the game's concerned, if you ask me my opinion, we were the better team tonight."