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Binghamton aiming to make Pirates walk the plank

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
B-Sens goaltender Robin Lehner isn't counting the Portland Pirates out tonight, even with Binghamton holding a 3-1 series edge heading into Game 5 on home ice (Just Sports Photography).

The Binghamton Senators know exactly how the Portland Pirates feel.

Reason enough for the B-Sens to be wary heading into tonight's Game 5 of their American Hockey League Atlantic Division final, which Binghamton can end with a second straight victory before the home folks at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena (7:05 p.m., Team 1200,

Thanks to a dominating performance in Monday's 6-1 rout Portland, the B-Sens hold a commanding 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven series. It's the same deficit Binghamton faced in its opening-round series against the Manchester Monarchs before reeling off three straight overtime triumphs to extend its life in the Calder Cup playoffs.

"If anyone knows how they're feeling, it's us," B-Sens captain Ryan Keller said following Monday's win. "The fourth game is the hardest one to win and we know that. We have to find a way to repeat the effort from (last night)."

Binghamton goaltender Robin Lehner, who's fashioned a 6-1-0 playoff record between the pipes and will make his eighth straight start tonight, said nobody in the B-Sens dressing room is counting out the Pirates, who won the Atlantic Division's regular-season title.

"We can't relax right now," Lehner told Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin after Monday's win. "We just have to keep working hard. They're not going to just come out and drop this game (tonight). They're going to come hard. Everything is possible. No one thought when we played Manchester, we were going to come back. They counted us out. We would be fools if we count them out."

Still, the B-Sens would rather be in this position, with multiple shots available to close out the series, rather than facing the sudden-death scenario from now on.

"The nice thing is, we've put ourselves in a good spot," said B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst. "We've got three kicks at the can if we need them to get that fourth win. But we know the fourth one is the hardest one to get.

"We're dealing with a wounded animal right now. We've even got them backed in the corner. We would be fools if we didn't think they were going to put up a fight tonight. This is not going to be easy, but it's up to us to get it done."

The B-Sens likely would be looking at several days off if they finish the job this evening. The Charlotte Checkers currently lead the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-1 in the East Division final, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night and Game 5 on Friday, both in North Carolina. If the series stretches to the limit, it wouldn't be done until Monday. So the Eastern Conference final won't begin until sometime next week.

Around the boards

The B-Sens have never finished off a series on home ice in franchise history and haven't been to the Eastern Conference final since 2003 ... The last fifth-place team to reach an AHL conference final? The Hershey Bears in 2001 ... Keller (5-4-9) and league playoff scoring leader Ryan Potulny (3-7-10) are each riding five-game point streaks for the B-Sens ... Binghamton (12-for-52, 23.1 per cent) owns the top-ranked power play among teams still alive in the Calder Cup playoffs ... B-Sens defenceman Patrick Wiercioch is a game-time decision tonight after taking a hard hit near the benches in Game 4.

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