OTTAWA -- When a team faces a 3-1 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the way the Ottawa Senators do in their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the first step to overcoming it is a belief it can be done.
As the Senators prepare to embark on that monumental challenge when they play Game 5 at Pittsburgh on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), they do so loaded with players who have that belief firmly lodged in their minds because they’ve done it before.
In the first round of the 2011 American Hockey League playoffs, the Binghamton Senators fell behind 3-1 in a best-of-7 against the Manchester Monarchs. But Binghamton won Game 5 in overtime, Game 6 in double overtime, and Game 7 in overtime to win the series.
The Baby Sens went on to win the Atlantic Division Finals in six games, the Eastern Conference Finals in a sweep, and the Calder Cup final in six games.
There are 12 members of the Senators organization in these Stanley Cup Playoffs who were members of the 2010-11 Binghamton Senators.
Among the players who have dressed for the Senators in the playoffs, goaltender Robin Lehner, defensemen Andre Benoit, Jared Cowen, Eric Gryba and Patrick Wiercioch, and forwards Erik Condra, Colin Greening and Zack Smith played significant roles on that championship team. From the Senators' “Black Aces,” Mark Borowiecki, Dave Dziurzynski, Mike Hoffman and Jim O'Brien were members of that Binghamton squad.
Lehner was the Calder Cup MVP with a 2.10 goals-against average and .939 save percentage, and he said he believes it helps today’s Senators to have so many players who lived through that experience two years ago.
“It’s not beneficial, I don’t think, it’s more that we know it can be done,” Lehner said Thursday. “Win the next game and all of a sudden it’s 3-2, and all of a sudden all the pressure is on them. In [Binghamton] we were down 3-1, we pulled out a game, and we went and played [on the road] and got a win there. All of a sudden it’s 3-3 and there’s so much pressure on the other team, so we kind of just rode that game out.”
Lehner is convinced all it will take for the pressure to shift to the Penguins will be a Senators win in Game 5.
“We won one game and all of a sudden the pressure started building up in the other team and we started to get confident,” Lehner said. “Then all of a sudden it just rolls. Anything can happen.”