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Rangers should get this series done early for once

New York Rangers' Kevin Hayes celebrates his game-winning

New York Rangers' Kevin Hayes celebrates his game-winning overtime goal with teammate Carl Hagelin during a first-round NHL playoff hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 22, 2015. The Rangers won 2-1 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Credit: AP / Gene J. Puskar

If the Rangers know what's good for them, there will be no walk of shame onto a chartered airplane Saturday.

No packing of bags, no donning of suits, no goodbye kisses for significant others.

Only this: a quiet day at home, feet up, perhaps with an adult beverage in hand, watching the Capitals and Islanders beat up one another in Game 6.

And, naturally, rooting for a seventh game Monday, preferably one that goes six overtimes.

It is time for the Blueshirts to dispense with the penurious Penguins, end the teams' mostly unsightly first-round playoff series and move on to more interesting challenges.

And the time for that is now: Game 5, Madison Square Garden, Friday night.

Time to say farewell to Sidney Crosby and the ghostly shadow of Evgeni Malkin and bring in a new superstar test -- John Tavares or Alex Ovechkin.

Yes, we know, the Rangers went seven in the first round each of the previous three springs and survived each time.

But that is playing with fire, to say the least, and could exact a price in the form of injuries and/or fatigue.

Plus, dismissing the Penguins now would give defenseman Kevin Klein another several days to heal and get in practice time in preparation for a return to the ice.

After practice Thursday at the Garden, I asked Rick Nash if players agree with the seemingly logical assumption by fans and journalists that winning in five is better than six or seven.

"I think you can kind of look at it both ways," he said. "Teams that go to seven and then jump into the next series can kind of build momentum.

"On the other hand, you get your rest and you get your practice and you get to heal a bit. So it's tough to say. It seems like since I've been here, we've been in long series, so we haven't had much taste of a break in between."

You could say that, yes. The last time the Rangers won in fewer than six games was against the Devils in the first round in 2008 -- 13 playoff series ago. Only Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi remain from that team.

"Obviously, in recent memory, we haven't been able to close out teams in five or six," Chris Kreider said. "But at the same time, it's not something we're really keyed in on. We're just focused on the next game."

About 90 percent of NHL teams with a 3-1 lead win the series, but the Rangers should benefit from knowing that that other 10 percent represents a real chance. That is because they came back from 3-1 just last year -- against the Penguins.

"We know what can happen," Nash said.

Also potentially working to keep the Rangers humble is the knowledge that they have not yet shown the Penguins or the rest of the world all of what they can do.

The Penguins' ice-clogging tactics and the Rangers' three 2-1 victories have helped the Presidents' Trophy winners avoid overconfidence.

"I don't think we're really comfortable with the way we've been playing," Derick Brassard said. "We're going to try to play a better game [Friday night] and just feel better about ourselves."

Said Lundqvist: "Three out of four games we haven't played our best, but we've been finding ways. That's the most important thing. I'd rather have it that way than play great and not win, which is the case sometimes."

Coach Alain Vigneault is not a fan of the style-points school of playoff analysis. A win is a win. "For someone to think that we can step on the ice and dominate any team that's in the playoffs, I don't think it's possible," he said.

Fair enough. Go ahead and win by a 2-1 score again if you must. Just win. Now. Then have a nice weekend.

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