With three straight one-goal wins, the Pittsburgh Penguins appear to have put a sputtering start behind them.
The Penguins look to continue their roll when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second game of a three-game homestand Thursday night.
Pittsburgh (5-3-0) got off to a 2-3-0 start, but victories over Carolina, Washington and the New York Rangers have the Penguins above .500 and pushing Philadelphia for the early lead in the Atlantic Division.
The last two wins were due largely to the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has found his game after some poor performances earlier in the season. The 22-year-old Fleury made 30 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Capitals on Saturday, then stopped 36 shots to defeat the Rangers 1-0 on Tuesday night in his best performance of 2007-08.
"You saw it Saturday night, you saw it tonight, he was the best player on our team," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said of Fleury, who allowed 18 goals in his first five games. "No one lost faith in him and he worked as hard as he could in practice. We're all real pumped for him."
Whitney's pass across the crease during a power play in the second period Tuesday deflected off the heel of teammate Evgeni Malkin's stick and past New York's Henrik Lundqvist for the only goal, giving the Penguins wins in a pair of games in which they totaled three goals.
"He (Whitney) made a great heads-up play to read that and get that puck to him quick," said Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who got the second assist. "He (Malkin) was strong in front of the net, he had a guy on him, and he found a way to get a stick on it. Those are the kind of goals you need."
Crosby and his teammates will look to increase their offensive output against a Toronto club that's last in the NHL with 42 goals allowed. The Maple Leafs (3-4-3) have dropped four of their last five, giving up 22 goals in the defeats.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the winner in a shootout to give last-place Atlanta a 5-4 victory over Toronto on Tuesday. Alex Ponikarovsky's goal with 10 seconds left in the third tied it for the Leafs, but they were unable to earn a second point after regulation.
"It's all about the wins right now, and we didn't win," forward Alex Steen said. "One point is not good enough for us."
Toronto, which completed a stretch of playing eight of its first 10 games on home ice, hits the road for six of its next seven. The Leafs are 0-1-1 on the road this season.
Pittsburgh took the first meeting with Toronto on Oct. 13 at the Air Canada Centre, as Crosby broke a 4-all tie on the power play with 5:22 left and the Penguins went on to a 6-4 victory. It was Crosby's second goal of the game and gave him five goals and nine assists in nine career contests against the Leafs.
Toronto went 0-2-0 at Mellon Arena in 2006-07, getting outscored 12-3, and is 1-3-1 in the last five matchups with Pittsburgh overall.