PORTLAND – The Binghamton Senators forged their postseason identity on a run-and-gun offense, their trio of threats at forward and the ability to gut out pivotal playoff games.
But with a berth in the AHL’s Eastern Conference finals on the line, the Binghamton Senators counted on the rock-steady play of 19-year-old goalie Robin Lehner in Game 6 of the Atlantic Division finals.
Lehner rebounded from Tuesday’s 6-2 road loss in Game 5 to notch his first shutout of the playoffs as Binghamton wrapped up the series with a 3-0 victory.
“It was really huge for us to see we could have a bad game,” said Lehner, who made 36 saves. “I can have a bad game, we can go back out the next game or we can start over.
“For my own part, it was really good for myself that I could see that, too, and I didn’t beat myself down. I kept working.”
So did the Senators.
“They stepped up real well in front of me,” said Lehner, who has a 2.59 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in nine playoff games. “(Portland) had to make really, really good plays to get through, and when they did they got some quality chances. I had to step up. That was key for us, for everyone to pull on through.”
In Tuesday’s loss at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, Lehner allowed four goals on the first 14 shots before he was pulled late in the first period.
“Coming into the game, I wasn’t sure how good (Lehner) was going to be,” Pirates center Luke Adam said. “Especially after getting pulled. But he showed good character. He showed what he can bring to a team, so credit goes to him for sure, bouncing back like that.
“But we didn’t really want that to happen.”
Lehner appeared to be a question mark after Game 5. But there was no question as to which goalie would start Game 6.
“I knew I needed to come back with him, for his long-term development, for sure,” Senators Coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. “He’s played really well for us and he had one kind of rough period (in Game 5).
“You couldn’t really say he had a rough game because I pulled him with about four minutes to go. But it shows a little bit about Robin.”
Kleinendorst didn’t credit just the defense for its efficiency in front of Lehner. He credited everybody on his team who chipped in for the stalwart defensive effort.
“(Portland) worked really hard,” Kleinendorst said. “But I felt like we were just a little bit harder getting in on the puck.
“We broke up a lot of plays, we blocked a lot of shots, there were rebounds that they couldn’t quite get to because we ended up swatting them away before they got to them. But I felt like they played pretty darn hard. We just played a little harder.”
THE PIRATES’ season ended with Friday’s loss to Binghamton, and it concluded under the watch of Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier. The 14-year general manager was on hand at the Civic Center to evaluate the Sabres’ prospects, and he spoke in regards to several of the players who played in Portland this season and to Coach Kevin Dineen’s work.
“He’s made a tremendous impact on this organization,” Regier said. “When you look at guys like Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Marc-Andre Gragnani, who’s most recently come up (to Buffalo) and played as well as he’s played, that’s a testament to him and all the guys we’ve had come through here.”
Regier was on hand to watch the Pirates make yet another playoff run — their sixth appearance in the playoffs in eight years and third consecutive appearance as a Sabres’ affiliate.
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: