Although John Vanbiesbrouck was a formidable sentinel in goal, and Willie Huber, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Pierre Larouche and Kelly Miller all grew to meet the moment, Patrick had the greatest series-long influence for New York, losers of 18 of their previous 19 to Philadelphia.
Less than nine minutes into Game 5, he rushed into the Flyers' zone, lost the puck, got it back, and fired the assist to Larouche for the first goal.
From New York's standpoint, a 1-0 lead wasn't necessarily pivotal, but an 0-1 deficit would have been disastrous. Patrick prevented the latter.
"We all felt that we had to come in and show them that they weren't going to win just because of home ice," Patrick said. "By getting the first goal, we told them we were going to be in there the whole game."
Getting three of the first four goals reinforced that. But when the Flyers rode back, Patrick wondered.
"When I was out on the ice I was fine," he said. "Fortunately, that was just about every second shift. But when I was on the bench I was going nuts. My stomach was tight. I just put my head down. I didn't really want to watch. Their crowd was great and their team kept playing. John just responded in goal and we made the defensive plays."
"I think you can put James into the same category as Paul Coffey, Mark Howe, Rod Langway and Brad McCrimmon," said Rangers coach Ted Sator, ticking off some of the league's elite defenders. "But Ruotsalainen has proven he deserved an All-Star selection, and Huber gave us a supreme effort."
"I played with Willie in Detroit," the Flyers' Murray Craven said, "but this was the best I've ever seen him play."
Patrick, who was plus-four for the game, wound up with four points in the series. He had one in seven regular season games against Philadelphia. His time was coming eventually - he was a No. 1 pick in the '81 draft and led North Dakota to the '82 NCAA title. He also had three points as a rookie in the Rangers' epic five-game loss to the Islanders in the '84 playoffs.
But now, at 23, he is New York's assistant captain, the heir to Barry Beck's defensive throne. His job was to evict the puck from the New York zone and make the key passes carefully.
"As long as I'm getting the ice time my legs stay fresh," he said. "I'm accustomed to being in a role where I'm responsible for a lot of things out there."
Then he thought of last year, when the Rangers were a pancake for most of the 80-game schedule and were swept by the Edmonton-bound Flyers.
"It was frustrating," Patrick said. "We all came out of '84 feeling so good about what we'd done against the Islanders. We thought we'd pick it right up from there.
"We kept telling ourselves the playoffs would work out, but they didn't. We forgot we had to work to make them happen. It's tough to adjust to each year being different."
The Flyers now face that adjustment. Patrick and the Rangers now face Washington.