PORTLAND – The Binghamton Senators got a chance to play their run-and-gun offense just enough make a difference Wednesday night.
Center Derek Smith scored his first playoff goal on a rebound seven minutes into the third period to lift the Senators to a 3-2 win against the Portland Pirates in the opening game of their best-of-seven Calder Cup series before 1,518 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Game 2 is scheduled for 7 tonight at the Civic Center.
“It’s a team we didn’t see too much during the regular season, but our coaches prepared us,” said Portland forward Colin Stuart, who scored his second goal of the playoffs late in the second period to forge a brief 2-2 tie. “We knew what they were going to bring. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our best effort (Wednesday night), it’s clear and simple.
“We have to rebound (tonight) and play our game.”
The Senators lead the eight teams left in the AHL playoffs in scoring, but it took them time to get cranked up. They took 34 of their 43 shots on goal during the last two periods.
“It’s an emotional game and when you’re not playing emotional, you’re not going to play your best,” Binghamton Coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. “From my end, we weren’t very good. We did start to pick it up a little bit during the second half of the first period and then we kind of continued to roll with it.”
Once the Senators started rolling, Portland had a difficult time keeping them out of their end.
“When they got it into our end, they had a level of cycle going,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “When we got the puck, we started moving back the other way and we started creating turnovers. We didn’t move our feet enough. We didn’t play a playoff type of hockey game.”
Still, the Pirates managed to jump to an early lead.
Rookie right wing Maxime Legault opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game by sweeping a rebound into the right side of the net for his first playoff goal after goalie Robin Lehner stopped Mark Voakes’ shot from the left side.
The Senators moved into a 2-1 lead during the first eight minutes of the second period.
Ryan Keller made it 1-1 when he finished a three-on-two break by poking the puck past Portland goalie David Leggio less than seven minutes into the period.
The goal came less than a minute after Lehner, making his fourth straight start, stopped Mark Mancari on a breakaway.
“I wanted to go upstairs and (the puck) only went halfway,” Mancari said. “It was one of those things where I didn’t get what I wanted on it and he made the save.”
Former University of New Hampshire forward Bobby Butler scored on a hard, low shot seven seconds into the Senators’ second power play of the game, making it 2-1.
Stuart later flashed down the right side and scored on a blast from the middle of the circle to make it 2-2.
“There’s a level of composure that we certainly didn’t have as the game wore on,” Dineen said. “As well they played, I think a lot of it gets hung back on us.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: