It felt more like the playoffs than the opening game of the season, but the Pittsburgh Penguins were happy to manage a win.

Evgeni Malkin scored the deciding goal in a shootout as the Penguins opened their NHL season with a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night.

Malkin waited for Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo to go down, then lifted a shot over him into the net.

"It was definitely fast for the first game of the season," said forward Matt Cooke, who returned to haunt his old team with two goals.

"They have a great squad. I know the expectations for their team is to be there [Stanley Cup final] in the end, and that's similar to us. It was two good teams going at it at a pretty high pace."

Kris Letang also scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh. Vancouver shooters Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Burrows both missed on their chances.

Vancouver twice battled back from two-goal deficits to force  overtime.

Daniel Sedin tied the game at 7:51 of the third with Pittsburgh being called for a delayed penalty. He fired a hard shot over a diving Penguin defenceman into the short side of the net.

Sedin, who was last year's scoring champion, also had the best chance in the five-minute overtime, sending a puck just wide of the net.

Vancouver's Cody Hodgson almost scored the winning goal in the game's dying seconds. His long shot just dribbled by the open corner of the Penguin net.

Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said his team started slowly.

"We didn't get off to the start we wanted at home," said Vigneault. "For the first 25 minutes of this game they were the best team on the ice.

"Our guy gutted it out, down by two goals against an elite team, and played a real strong third period and overtime."

Cooke spent almost seven years playing in Vancouver before being traded in 2008. He scored on the power play and short-handed for Pittsburgh. James Neal also scored a power-play goal.

Defenceman Keith Ballard and centre Maxim Lapierre also scored for Vancouver. Henrik Sedin added two assists.

The Stanley Cup finalist Canucks looked tentative to start the game. Several of the players appeared nervous and fought the puck.

It took almost 40 minutes for Vancouver to show the speed and finesse the team used to win the Presidents' Trophy last season and advance to the final against the Boston Bruins.

Luongo stopped 25 shots but allowed a couple of soft goals.

Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury kicked one puck into his own net, but looked solid most of the night blocking 33 shots.

Fleury made a great glove save off Daniel Sedin in the first period and took away what looked like a sure goal from Burrows early in the second.

The crowd at Rogers Arena was announced as a sellout of 18,860, but there were many empty seats. The building seemed quiet for the first half of the game but the fans began to make noise by the third period.

Cooke's first goal came on a power play at 12:30 of the first period, making the score 2-0. Pascal Dupuis sent the pesky forward a pass from behind the net. Cooke fired a shot that beat Luongo on the far side.

Cooke made it 3-1 early in the second period with Pittsburgh playing short-handed. He shot a puck through defenceman Kevin Bieksa's legs from the top of the face-off circle that grazed Luongo's blocker and went into the net.

Ballard got the Canucks close late in the second. Henrik Sedin feathered him a perfect pass, allowing Ballard to break in and beat Fleury with a shot underneath his blocker to make the score 3-2.

Ballard scored just two goals in 65 games last year.

Neal opened the scoring for Pittsburgh at 5:04 of the first period, just 16 seconds after Bieksa was sent off for hooking. Neal took a pass from Malkin and fired a shot from almost behind the net that sailed past defenceman Chris Tanev, hit Luongo and deflected into the net.

The Canucks scored their first goal of the season at 16:20 of the first on a  strange play.

Lapierre wrestled the puck away from defenceman Paul Martin in the corner, then fired a shot that squirted between Fleury and the post. Fleury actually kicked the puck into his own net.

The Penguins played the game without captain Sidney Crosby who is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms. Crosby is travelling with the Penguins and practised with his teammates in Vancouver Wednesday. He still isn't sure when he will return.