The Boston Bruins lost in overtime Sunday night, skating off the ice in Pittsburgh on the wrong side of a 6-5 overtime score. It was a wild game that saw each team blow a two-goal lead and left some of us dreaming about an all black-and-gold Eastern Conference final.

That’s right. It’s OK to daydream about a deep playoff run for the Bruins. Despite the loss to the Penguins, the Bruins have forged their way near the top of the NHL. The Bruins entered their mandatory NHL “bye week” with 53 points, second only to Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. They’ve only played 40 games, tied for the fewest in the league.

Losing in OT meant the Bruins still gained a point, extending the team’s point streak to 11 straight games. On Saturday night the Bruins dismantled a Carolina Hurricanes team that came to Boston just one point out of a playoff spot. Four Patrice Bergeron goals later Boston had a 7-1 lead.

It was a career night for Bergeron, who said he was 16 years old the last time he had a game like that. Bergeron has never been the league’s flashiest player. It was the second hat trick of his career, and his first in nearly seven years. Yet anyone who knows the game will tell you there are few who can play the 200-foot game as well as Bergeron. He has long been the team’s most complete player: defensively responsible, terrific in the faceoff circle and strong on the stick in the offensive end.

Now he centers one of the league’s best lines. Bergeron has been the pivot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as the team rolled to a 23-10-7 record at the break. They’ve gone from playoff hopeful to home-ice favorite. Led by that line’s production, the Bruins have scored five or more goals in four straight games and five of their last six.

The league-mandated, five-day vacation comes at a great time for Boston. They are healthy and playing well. The nightmarish October, when injuries to established Bruins forced young players to take on bigger roles, is behind them. The benefit of that is those young players now have more experience and are making this team more dynamic.

“You need time to come together and we’ve really done that now,” Marchand told BostonBruins.com after the game in Pittsburgh. “We showed that we can compete every night and that we can be a good team and we’re consistent. We need to continue to do it after the break. Can’t take it for granted, what we’ve done, and make sure we keep this thing going.”

On Saturday Marchand joked that “being Patrice Bergeron” topped the center’s four-goal accomplishment. Make no mistake that Marchand is well aware of Bergeron’s importance to this team’s success. He embodies this Bruins team perfectly, a quiet leader who lets his actions do his talking.

The Bruins have forged their way toward the top of the league’s standings in relative obscurity. Early in the season they were overshadowed by the Celtics’ remarkable 16-game winning streak.

On Nov. 22, the night the Celtics’ streak ended, the Bruins were in the midst of a wild 11-round shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. It was Boston’s third-straight victory, a streak that finally pulled the Bruins above .500.

They haven’t looked back, going 17-3-3 in 23 games since that streak began.

Not many people noticed that night because they were caught up in the Celtics’ historic run.

People are noticing now.

The Bruins get back to action on Saturday night in Montreal against the Canadiens. It’ll be Hockey Night in Canada, with lots of attention north of the border. There won’t be as much attention in New England as the Patriots kick off their playoffs about 90 minutes after the puck drops at Bell Centre.

That’s fine with the Bruins. They know you’ll start paying attention if their success continues. And, like their top-line center, they’ve been succeeding quietly for the past two months.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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