The Pittsburgh Penguins traded for a backup goaltender over the weekend to give struggling starter Marc-Andre Fleury some competition.
If his first start since the deal is any indication, Fleury got the message.
Coming off two solid starts - including a shutout in his latest game - Fleury and the Penguins will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, looking for a third straight victory for the first time since mid-November.
Pittsburgh (23-20-4) has been one of the league's biggest disappointments following its trip to the Stanley Cup finals last season, sitting in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and going 9-14-1 since the beginning of December.
Fleury finished an injury-plagued regular season in 2007-08 at 19-10-2 with a 2.33 goals-against average, but he's been far less dependable so far this season. After a 6-3 loss to Washington on Wednesday, Fleury fell to 13-11-2 with a 3.01 GAA.
He made 21 saves on Friday in a 3-1 victory over Anaheim, though, a day before the Penguins swapped backup goaltenders with Edmonton, dealing Dany Sabourin for the younger Mathieu Garon.
Coach Michel Therrien had publicly questioned Fleury's play, but with Garon on his way, Fleury stepped up again on Sunday. Facing the division rival New York Rangers, Fleury stopped all 33 shots he saw, posting his second shutout of the season in Pittsburgh's 3-0 win.
"He played well," Therrien said. "I like the way he was focused. I like the way he's square to the puck. He doesn't have to make spectacular saves and that's a great sign because of his position. If you want to win in this league, you need great goaltending."
The other positive sign on Sunday for the Penguins was the return of captain Sidney Crosby after he missed a game due to a knee injury.
Crosby, whose 59 points rank second in the league behind teammate Evgeni Malkin's 69, didn't have a point against the Rangers. Neither did Malkin, but Petr Sykora scored his 17th goal to end a four-game scoreless drought.
"We got some big goals, (Fleury) played great, we didn't give up a ton of scoring chances, and when we did he was there to shut the door," Crosby said.
Sykora, Malkin and Crosby all played pivotal roles in Pittsburgh's two meetings with Carolina (22-20-5) this season. Crosby and Malkin each had a goal and an assist in the Penguins' 4-1 home win on Oct. 23, and they chipped in even more on Dec. 4 in Raleigh. Crosby had four assists, Malkin had two and Sykora scored twice in Pittsburgh's 5-2 victory.
The Hurricanes fell into third in the Southeast Division following five consecutive losses from Jan. 8-17, a stretch in which they scored only nine goals.
The offense wasn't great again on Monday in Toronto, but Cam Ward was. Carolina's netminder came up with 35 saves - including some key stops when the game was scoreless in the second period - to earn his second shutout of the season in a 2-0 victory.
"The way things have been going these past five games those pucks probably would have went in," Ward said. "It was nice tonight to be rewarded with some good bounces and get the win.
"This was a big win for our hockey club and hopefully we can build off it."
The Hurricanes could use more from their entire offense, especially leading goal-scorer Eric Staal. Last season's All-Star game MVP has 19 goals this season, but just one in his last eight games.
Staal doesn't have a point against the Penguins this season.