ATLANTA - As the buzzer sounded to end the second period Friday night, Andrew Ladd responded to Sean Avery's check with a slash that connected. No call was made. Avery turned to the referees to plead his case but was snubbed, he said.

"I don't know," Avery said, using profanity to describe how the referees reacted to his pleas. "That's always their response,'' he said.

When it was suggested that he report the incidents to the NHLPA, he shrugged. When a reporter wondered if that would make his position worse, he asked: "Could it get any worse?"

When asked about the incident, coach John Tortorella said: "It wasn't a penalty."

Gaborik better

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Marian Gaborik, who had five shots and played one of his better games in the past month, is 0-for-2 on penalty shots this season and 2-for-7 in his career. He and Marc Staal noted improvement on the power play (1-for-3 with seven shots) after two days of practice. "Got a goal, there was better puck movement, a little more rebounds," Staal said. "Hopefully, that will win us some games."

Blue notes

The Rangers had been outshooting opponents in the third period by wide margins since Jan. 9 but were outshot 12-7 . . . Vinny Prospal, in his fourth game back from knee surgery, recorded his first assist of the season on Staal's power-play goal. The goal was Staal's first in 24 games . . . D Ryan McDonagh registered his second assist of the season on Brandon Dubinsky's goal . . . Eric Boulton pounded Brandon Prust after the two dropped the gloves at 6:07 of the first . . . Derek Stepan played just 8:57; Mats Zuccarello just 9:18 . . . C Chris Drury had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday and is out a minimum of six weeks . . . Steve Eminger sat for the fifth straight game as a healthy scratch.