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Lehner pulling out all the stops for Binghamton

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Goaltender Robin Lehner's 43 saves played a huge role in the B-Sens' 5-3 road victory Thursday night over the Portland Pirates, which gave Binghamton a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven AHL Atlantic Division final (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

They're like a snowball barrelling down the steepest of mountains.

Gathering a huge head of steam and looking more unstoppable by the day.

The Binghamton Senators continued their rampage through the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division playoffs Thursday night, surging past the Portland Pirates 5-3 before 1,831 stunned onlookers at the Cumberland County Community Center in Maine.

With their fifth straight victory of the post-season, the B-Sens seized a 2-0 lead in the Atlantic final against the division's regular-season champions. With the next three games scheduled for Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, Binghamton has a massive opportunity to wrap up the series on home ice.

"It’s huge, any time you can win on the road," Binghamton forward Kaspars Daugavins said of winning twice in a rink where the Pirates had lost only eight games previously this season. "One would (have been) good but two is amazing. Now we have three games at home and, hopefully, we can finish them at home."

In the hours leading up to Game 2, B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst suggested his team needed to be prepared for Portland's "best game" in the wake of Binghamton's 3-2 victory in the series opener Wednesday night. The Pirates didn't disappoint, outshooting the visitors 46-26. But Robin Lehner was a wall in the B-Sens net, stopping 43 shots to run his post-season record to a perfect 5-0-0.

"He was our rock back there," B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst told reporters after the game. "If he doesn't play the way he played tonight, we're not winning this hockey game. That's the way it is. Goaltending is a big part of every team. Robin has done a great job for us, but I think we played well in front of him, as well."

Indeed, Lehner's teammates shook off an early 2-0 deficit — Derek Whitmore and former 67's star Mark Mancari had the goals — to rally from behind one more time to extend a run that began with three straight overtime wins to eliminate the Manchester Monarchs in the first round. Daugavins provided the spark with a shorthanded goal 8:28 into the second period and sealed matters with an empty-netter with 3.1 seconds left on the clock.

Zack Smith, with his second goal in as many nights, pulled the B-Sens even in the middle frame, then Bobby Butler scored for the fifth game in a row — the rookie pro has six goals in his first AHL post-season — to give Binghamton a 3-2 lead through 40 minutes.

Mancari tied it up for Portland just past the midway point of the third period and overtime appeared imminent for the B-Sens, who had five of seven games against Manchester go into an extra period. But Bobby Raymond wouldn't let that happen. The Binghamton blueliner, who was signed to a pro tryout agreement Monday to bolster the team's defence corps, snapped the 3-3 tie with his first goal of the playoffs with 3:51 to play.

"It couldn’t have come at a better time, really," Raymond said of his game-winner. "The guys were on a rush and Cons (Erik Condra) didn’t see anything, so he pulled up and fed it to me coming into the slot late. It hit a few things and kind of ping-ponged in, but that’s how they go in during the playoffs."

From there, the B-Sens turned the game over to Lehner, who closed the door on the Pirates the rest of the way to give Binghamton a commanding series lead. The empty netter by Daugavins added insurance.

Game 3 goes Saturday night in Binghamton (7:05 p.m., Team 1200,

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