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Mario Bids Farewell
Mario Lemieux had already heard the farewells, thank-yous and ovations for this last game or that.

In his hometown of Montreal, his last goals there set off waves of adulation. The Bruins gave him a seat from the old Boston Garden, where he scored his first goal on his very first shift. And in Pittsburgh, fans chanted "Ma-ree-o!" as their beloved star scored a dramatic breakaway goal Thursday in what was his final home game.

On Saturday night, Mario Lemieux skated his final shift and then said his last goodbye.

All the pomp of the last few months came to a head Saturday night in Philadelphia, where the Flyers won 6-3 to eliminate the Penguins from the playoffs.

Lemieux didn't need one of his spectacular moves to score his final goal – his 70th playoff score and 683rd overall. He just took a nifty pass from Jaromir Jagr and one-timed from the slot past one final victim, goalie Garth Snow.

Snow was the last man to greet Lemieux after the game as the teams exchanged handshakes. Snow said something that brought a smile to the face of Lemieux and he patted the goalie's head.

Lemieux told Philadelphia's Eric Lindros it was his turn to win a Stanley Cup.

The Philadelphia crowd stood as one to cheer as Lemieux headed for the ramp to the locker room. He stopped for a moment and waved.

"I have some mixed emotions about tonight. After all, this is a game I've been playing since I was three years old," Lemieux said.

But he insisted there'd be no second-guessing of his decision.

"Not really with the way I've played the last few years," said the same man who won the last two NHL scoring titles. "I haven't been able to play at a high level, and that is very tough for me to take."

Asked if the Olympics in February is a possibility, Lemieux shook his head and said, "Not at all."

"It's a sad day, that's for sure. He's meant everything to this franchise," Penguins coach Craig Patrick said about the player who turned Pittsburgh from a last-place team to a champion in seven seasons.

Unlike Thursday, there were no banners, no video tributes and no ovation at the start of the game. Historic finale or not, Flyers fans viciously taunted Pittsburgh faithful wearing No. 66.

Still, even in Philadelphia, a town that likes to consider itself tough on opposing players, fans showed how Lemieux transcends partisanship.

"He is Mario Lemieux," said Flyers fan Peter Bergan, who was among the largest crowd - 20,009 - to watch a hockey game in Pennsylvania. "No matter how much they boo him, they have to respect him."

Said Flyers winger Rod Brind'Amour: "He revolutionized this game, as Gretzky did. We all owe him a lot."

His back had ailed him of late, though, and he scored just three goals in the series. The Penguins tried to use the retirement as motivation to stay alive in the playoffs. It hit them, though, when Lemieux skated a victory lap in Pittsburgh on Thursday, tears streaming down his cheeks.

"That was something," said defenseman Ian Moran, who set Lemieux up for that last goal at the Civic Arena. "You're going to remember it for the rest of your life, being apart of that".

Lemieux leaves the game on his own terms. He scored 50 goals this season and led the NHL in scoring for the second straight season with 122 points. He is the sixth-leading scorer in the NHL, beloved by Pittsburgh and admired by fans as one of the game's best players.

"That was my only goal when I came here, to lift the cup once," he said. "And I was fortunate to done it twice."

He has said he longs to return to a life where he makes the schedule, a life without long days away from his wife and growing family, a life where he the only sticks he swings are golf clubs.

It came five years after he led the Penguins to consecutive titles. In 1993, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. He would return, but when his son, Austin, nearly died at birth last year, the 31-year-old Quebec native took stock of his priorities and decided that he had accomplished all he wanted in hockey.

He plans to take a year off and play a lot of golf. And he said he doesn't expect to stay involved in the NHL.

"It's time to do something else," he said. "And I'm going to have a great time."