Now the Binghamton Senators have to do it the hard way.
After squandering a chance to put the Portland Pirates away on home ice, it's off to Maine for the B-Sens and another trip to the Cumberland County Civic Center, where the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division final will eventually be decided.
"We know the situation now," Binghamton forward Ryan Potulny said with an eye toward Game 6 of the best-of-seven series, which is set for Friday in Portland (7 p.m., Team 1200, ahllive.com). "We have to go and win a game on the road."
It's a scenario the B-Sens hoped to avoid with a 3-1 series edge heading into Game 5 on Wednesday night at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. But with a chance to apply the clincher, Binghamton laid its biggest egg of the Calder Cup playoffs to date and absorbed a 6-2 setback at the hands of the Pirates.
The "stinker" of a result was baffling to Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst — "we weren't ready for this one and I cannot believe that," he told reporters afterward — but the B-Sens can take comfort in the knowledge they've been a superior road team during these Calder Cup playoffs. While they've only two of six games on home ice in the post-season, the B-Sens have posted a 5-1 mark on the road, incuding a pair of victories in Portland to start this series.
That being said, Kleinendorst would rather have avoided a second long bus ride to Portland, where the Pirates lost only eight times during the regular season. But while the task is daunting, the B-Sens haven't wilted in the face of any challenge yet during these playoffs.
"We would have rather have won (last) night," said Kleinendorst. "If you’re asking me 'are we capable' (of winning the series on the road), absolutely we are. We’ve got a group right now that, when we play up to our potential, I don’t care who we’re playing, we can win."
If anything, Tuesday's game offered up a rather stern reminder to the B-Sens that closing out any playoff foe, be it on home ice or away, never comes easily.
"Every team, when they're down and facing elimination, plays desperate hockey," said Binghamton forward Jim O'Brien
, who notched his first goal of the post-season on Tuesday night. "It happened to us in the last series (which the B-Sens rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Manchester Monarchs) and we know the fourth win in a series is going to be your hardest win., especially because the other team is holding on for dear life."
The Pirates certainly displayed plenty of that Tuesday, roaring out to a 4-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes, chasing Binghamton starting goaltender Robin Lehner
in the process. The B-Sens never recovered.
"The hardest thing to do is end a team's season," said Potulny, the AHL's leading goal and point getter. "We expected that (from Portland). We have to come out stronger the next game."
Also on the plus side, the B-Sens still hold the lead in the division final and it's not sudden-death for them Friday. It remains that way for the Pirates, however.
"That’s the good thing about having a 3-1 lead," said Kleinendorst. "We have three kicks at it. (Now) we’ve got two left. And we’re a good team, we’re a good road team. We’ve been good all year and we’ve been good in the playoffs. What we need now right now is rest. We’ve been playing some of our guys a lot of minutes. We’ve got some defencemen that need to catch their breath a little bit. But this team is capable. We’ve proven it before."