ATLANTA - The Rangers live to fight another day.
Vinny Prospal scored twice in a three-goal first period as the Rangers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Thrashers Friday night.
As Sean Avery, benched by coach John Tortorella, watched from the stands at Philips Arena, the Rangers inched within three points of the Bruins, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Prospal's second goal, which made the score 3-0, came on a five-on-three power play with five Rangers forwards on the ice. Chris Drury set up that goal, along with the previous power-play goal by Marian Gaborik. That shot, off a scramble in front, came only 41 seconds after Prospal's opener, a slapper from the left side that went off goaltender Johan Hedberg's glove.
Gaborik had his most productive game since his return from a groin pull suffered during the Olympics.
The Rangers are 30-29-9 for 69 points with 14 games to play. They begin a three-game homestand Sunday against the sixth-place Flyers.
With Olli Jokinen in the box early in the second, the Thrashers converted when Clarke MacArthur slammed in Rich Peverly's pass to cut the lead to 3-1.
But the Thrashers didn't go quietly. In the third, Ron Hainsey beat Henrik Lundqvist at 11:26 and the Thrashers had a power play that came oh-so-close after Jody Shelley was whistled for a hook with 6:42 left in regulation. Ryan Callahan's empty-netter with 1:06 to play sealed it.
Lundqvist, who had been pulled after allowing five goals on 17 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Devils on Wednesday, recovered nicely and will start against the Flyers on Sunday. "He's going to have to be the best he can be the rest of the way," Tortorella said.
All this came without Avery, who was a healthy scratch for the first time since Game 5 of last season's playoff series against Washington.
"We've asked [Avery] for a while now for more engagement," Tortorella said, "and honestly, we just haven't seen it . . . in all facets of the game."
Avery, who had four goals in the previous six games but was demoted to the fourth line during practice Thursday, was disappointed but not stunned
The left wing, whose feistiness has been more contained this season and is 8-17-25 in 62 games, said he is not sure specifically what being more "engaged" means. "I'm going to have to talk to [Tortorella] about that, and figure out what exactly it is and then instill it into my game," he said.
But he also noted: "I know what's been asked of me, so whenever I get my next opportunity, that's certainly the thing I'm going to have to do. I'm gonna keep that to myself."
He added, "It's not my decision. I just hope the guys come out hard tonight and get the two points."