If this was in fact Jaromir Jagr's last game as a New York Ranger, it really was as special as he wanted it to be.
The Rangers 3-0 whitewash of the Penguins helped of course because it kept the team from being swept out of the second round of the playoffs. And on its own merits, the win was inspiring for New York by showing the Rangers they can still beat Pittsburgh with their best game.
New York won the season series between the teams and had enough chances to win each of the first three games, but whenever there was a pivotal moment, it was the Penguins best players who found a way to step up instead of those on the Rangers. Except for Jagr, who on an individual level has done everything for the Rangers that Crosby, Malkin et al. have done for Pittsburgh in this series, just without the end results.
So when Jagr dropped board hints after the Game 3 loss that the next game could be his swan song on Broadway, the "funny feeling" he had about a New York comeback in the series seemed either wishful or deluded. But either way, the Rangers captain sounded intent on willing it to happen, and he started the long shot process with one of those Madison Square Garden performances for the ages.
It still might be too late.
Talk about the 04 Red Sox. the 75 Islanders or the 42 Maple Leafs all you want, but there's a reason winning a series when you're down 3-0 almost never happens. It's tough. But not impossible and Jagr made sure the Rangers still have a chance.
"He's a driven man right now," Rangers coach Tom Renney. "And for all the right reasons."
Jagr scored two of the goals and assisted on the other, and basically took over the ice on every shift. And he never missed one either, even when he ran into a brick wall named Brooks Orpik and had to be helped from the ice after scoring the game's first goal.
Jagr paid the price for going to the front of the net on that one, which proved to be the winner and set the tone for the desperate Rangers. But New York's biggest goal came from Brandon Dubinsky on a play Jagr created from behind the net. 44 seconds into the second period. It was New York's first power play goal in 16 tries, which removed the proverbial monkey from their backs and gave the Rangers the breathing room to effectively contain Pittsburgh.
It wasn't easy though, even if the Rangers were playing outstanding team defense. The Penguins had fewer odd-man rushes than in previous games and didn't get to the net as easily, but they still put enough pressure on to stay in the game to the end. Pittsburgh just couldn't solve Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 29 saves -- several of the remarkable variety -- and even turned back Malkin on a second period penalty shot.
Lundqvist was arguably more critical to his victory on an individual level than Jagr, who clinched it with an empty netter. But the goalie's effort would not have mattered had Jagr lifted the team onto his shoulders.
Jagr made this game special. Just like he wanted.