Things are going so well for the Ottawa Senators that they are impressive even when they lose.
Ottawa looks to shrug off a rare defeat and regain possession of second place in the Northeast Division on Saturday when it visits the Boston Bruins.
Few teams have played as well over the past month as the Senators (27-20-2), who have shaken off a slow start to win 10 of their last 13 games. They occupied last place in the division earlier this season, but the recent surge moved them temporarily into second place, behind only Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo.
Despite another strong effort, Ottawa's five-game win streak was snapped Thursday with a 2-1 loss to All-Star Roberto Luongo and surprising Vancouver.
The Senators carried play throughout the game, outshooting the first-place Canucks 35-14, including 14-0 in the third period.
"I thought we played as well defensively as you can play," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "But we couldn't find a way to score. It has a lot to do with goaltending. We had a couple of chances and we couldn't complete them."
Ottawa failed to tie the score despite enjoying 1:05 of 5-on-3 play when Vancouver's Matt Cooke was sent off with 8:15 remaining after he crosschecked Daniel Alfredsson as the Senators' captain carried the puck at center ice.
"In a tight game, that's when you need to score," Alfredsson said. "We did give it everything we had in the third. We had some good chances and we just couldn't get it by Luongo."
Alfredsson's third-period goal gave him scores in six straight games, matching the franchise record set by Bob Kudelski from Oct. 21-30, 1993.
Alfredsson has elevated his game in the absence of center Jason Spezza, who has been sidelined since Dec. 21 with a knee injury. Alfredsson has six goals and nine assists during a six-game point streak, and has at least a point in 17 of his last 20 contests.
Rookie Phil Kessel, who recently returned following cancer surgery, scored the winning goal in a shootout Thursday to lift Boston (22-19-4) to a 5-4 victory over Pittsburgh.
"I think he is playing with more composure and determination," Bruins coach Dave Lewis told the team's official Web site. "He's doing the little things that are important and he was really effective again today."
Red-hot Marc Savard added a goal and two assists for the Bruins, who have points in six of their last seven home games (5-1-1).
Backup Hannu Toivonen stopped 31 shots through regulation and overtime before denying Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Sergei Gonchar in the shootout. The win was Toivonen's first since Oct. 19.
"It's just a breakaway," Toivonen said of the shootout. "You go out, try and get a good gap and take their space away. You make them make the first move."
Tim Thomas figures to be back in net Saturday for Boston. He is 5-2-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average against the Senators.
Savard has four goals and six assists during a five-game point streak, and is among the league leaders with 62 points. He has two goals and four assists in four games this season against Ottawa.
The Bruins outscored the Senators 13-6 in winning the first three meetings this season, but Ottawa posted a 5-2 home victory on Jan. 9. The Senators are 0-4-1 in their last five visits to Boston.