That early playmaking rust wore off as the Black & Gold powered back with three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead over the Sabres into the final minute of regulation.
But it was the defensive rust that took hold late, as Boston gave up an extra attacker goal in the final minute and then fell 5-4 in overtime to the home team.
"Yeah, I thought offensively, I didn't mind our game," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame. "I thought we moved the puck well, and we had some good offensive zone time and we scored four goals. We should win those kinds of games, but certainly we were definitely rusty defensively."
"The goals that we gave them are certainly not the way we normally give up goals - some loose gaps, two goals just around the slot area when we should have had a guy closer to him - and we needed some timely saves; we didn't get them tonight."
Buffalo struck first, just 3:32 into the game, after creating a turnover with their forecheck.
The Bruins' line of Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg went to work with their own forechecking pressure later in the first, with Kelly ripping one into the top corner for the tying goal.
While the B's battled rust early, Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron were working through jet lag. It didn't seem to affect either of the forwards, and Eriksson finished the game leading all Bruins' forwards with 18:37 in ice time and a team-high five shots.
"Loui was a good player again tonight," said Julien. "I really liked his game. That line again was good for us tonight and they did a great job every time they were on the ice; they created a lot of stuff so I continue to like that line."
That trio made it a tie game, but the Sabres went up 3-1 with two goals in the first half of the second period. They first capitalized on a power play and then, just as another man-advantage chance expired, a knuckle-puck found its way over Chad Johnson's shoulder.
"It was frustrating," Johnson said of the outing. It marked his sixth start in the Bruins' past 12 games. He had entered the night having won his previous five games between the pipes. The Bruins had Tuukka Rask stay back in Boston to get more rest before his return to Black & Gold.
"I thought we played a good game, and they just got some chances and they capitalized on it and they didn't quit. It's a frustrating game. You know, you score four goals, you should win games like that."
It was the Captain, Zdeno Chara, who started the charge to that four-goal mark midway through the second period, jamming the puck through Jhonas Enroth on the power play after a drive by Torey Krug created mayhem in front.
The Bruins began to turn it up, and Brad Marchand cashed with his 20th goal of the season when linemate Reilly Smith stole the puck from John Scott behind the net. He's the first Bruin to reach the 20-goal plateau this season. It tied the game at 3-3.
"We knew that we'd probably be a little rusty to begin with," said Marchand. "But I think we had a pretty good game, we did a good job battling back from a two-goal deficit. But they played really well, they played hard."
"They've completely changed from the start of the year, they're a lot tougher to play against, so I think it was a game we expected to be like that but it would have been nice to get the win."
The Bruins pulled ahead, 4-3, when they took advantage of a power play midway through the third period. Krug took the loose puck and wrapped around the goal, centering it through the slot. With bodies in front, Milan Lucic blasted in the go-ahead.
"Yeah, the most frustrating part about [the loss] is the lead in the third period - you put yourself in good position to win a game and, you know, unfortunately we gave that away," said Krug.
"Obviously there were some mistakes that led to goals but, you know, right away at the beginning it was more about just getting our legs going. We know that our hands and, you know, even our head might at times make us at fault, but as long as our legs were moving, we could give ourselves a chance to win the game."
As the clock ticked down in the third, the men in the Spoked-B had the game in control.
But when Buffalo sent an extra attacker to the ice late in regulation, delay by the Bruins in the defensive zone led to Moulson jamming the puck in behind Johnson. Just 22 seconds into overtime, Matt D'Agostini found his way in behind Chara in the neutral zone to collect an errant Bruins' pass, pull a move and put the puck past for the win.
While the Bruins didn't necessarily have circumstances on their side, with the game being their first as a group in two and a half weeks, they weren't letting this loss slide. Even if the earned point does continue a stretch of 12 games with only one loss in regulation (8-1-3).
"I think we're a team that expects more, and to me, we should have walked out of here with a win," said Julien. "We had the game under control and then we gave them that tying goal, and then it's our own mistakes even on that winning goal, not getting back quick enough."
"So you've got to look at yourself and say we had the game under control with less than a minute left and we gave them that first point, and gave them that second one."
"You know, we hold ourselves to a pretty high standard," said Krug. "So when you have an opportunity to get two points with a lead in the third period, we're going to be disappointed when we don't come out two points. We just hold ourselves to that."