[WATCH: All Rangers vs. Penguins highlights]
After Henrik Lundqvist got the flu, though, the New York Rangers turned to their backup goalie. Pavelec responded by making 41 saves to help the Rangers defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 at PPG Paints Arena.
Pavelec said starting on short notice didn't faze him.
"For me, it was another game," Pavelec said. "I didn't start a game for a while. So, I wanted this one to get two points, finally. It doesn't matter. I had a lot of time to prepare for the game and it wasn't an issue at all.
"It's another game for me and I'm really happy for the win because I didn't have many starts the last few weeks. So, every time I get the chance to play, I want to win the game."
Pavelec was 2-13-1 with a 4.20 goals-against average and .870 save percentage in 16 games against Pittsburgh entering Tuesday. He was most effective in the second period, when he made 22 saves on 23 shots after facing four shots in the first.
Video: NYR@PIT: Pavelec uses glove to turn aside Guentzel
"He didn't have a lot of work in the first, but he did have quite a few shots after that," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He did give us a real strong game. I'm real happy for him. He's put in a lot of work and I'm sure there will be a few more of those to come."
Pavel Buchnevich scored with 8:48 remaining to put New York ahead 4-3.
Buchnevich carried the puck into the offensive zone and attempted a cross-ice pass that deflected off Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and over goalie Tristan Jarry. He has scored one goal in two of his past three games following a six-game drought.
"I'm playing the pass for the guy going back door," Letang said. "It deflects off me and goes right-top shelf. … I think in the third period, when you're trying to chase the game, you get exhausted and it's tough to rally."
Jarry made 25 saves for Pittsburgh. He had won in four straight appearances and each of his previous two starts since starting goalie Matt Murray sustained a lower-body injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 27.
The Rangers (15-10-2) have won six of their past seven games (6-1-0). The Penguins (15-11-3) had their winning streak end at four.
After Phil Kessel gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead at 7:11 of the second period, Jesper Fast and Mats Zuccarello scored to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead entering the third.
Fast tied it 2-2 with his fifth goal at 12:26 of the second. Brady Skjei blew by Letang wall before going forehand to backhand and forcing a rebound, which Fast scored on.
J.T. Miller sent a stretch pass past Matt Hunwick to Zuccarello, who held off Hunwick to squeeze a shot through Jarry at 17:20 of the second.
Video: NYR@PIT: Zuccarello sneaks wrist shot past Jarry
Patric Hornqvist tied it 3-3 with a power-play goal on a breakaway at 3:35 of the third period. He has scored one goal in each of his past four games.
The Penguins were outshot 10-4 in the first period but took a 1-0 lead when Conor Sheary ended his eight-game goal drought at 15:13 of the period. Hornqvist backhanded a cross-crease pass through Rangers forward Rick Nash to Sheary, who one-timed it.
The lead lasted 1:36 before Boo Nieves tied it 1-1 with his first NHL goal at 16:49.
Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz left the game in the first period and again in the second with a lower-body injury. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Schultz would be evaluated Wednesday.
Goal of the game
Buchnevich's goal at 11:12 of the third period.
Video: NYR@PIT: Buchnevich nets fortuitous goal off defender
Save of the game
Pavelec's save on Kessel at 17:18 of the third.
Video: NYR@PIT: Pavelec fights off Kessel's one-timer
Highlight of the game
Hornqvist's goal at 3:35 of the third period.
Video: NYR@PIT: Hornqvist capitalizes on breakaway with PPG
They said it
"[The Penguins] had their looks. I think we could have taken care of the puck a little better sometimes, but that's a good team putting pressure on you. It's a really important game for us, even though it's early in the year. A character win is a good way to put it." -- Rangers forward J.T. Miller
"We have to make sure we do a better job at recognizing when we have to make simple plays and play behind teams. … The third period was probably our best, but I thought early in the game, we were the victim of it a little bit." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan
Need to know
Four points separate the top six teams in the Metropolitan Division. The New Jersey Devils lead the division with 36 points, and the Rangers are sixth with 32. Pittsburgh is one point ahead of New York with 33 points, tied with the Washington Capitals. The New York Islanders are third with 34 points.
Rangers: At the Washington Capitals on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports, SN, NBCSWA, MSG, NHL.TV)
Penguins: Host the New York Islanders on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, ATTSN-PT, MSG+, NHL.TV)
Video: Pavelec, Zuccarello lead Rangers past Penguins, 4-3