BINGHAMTON 2, HOUSTON 1 (OT)
Former first-round draft pick Jim O’Brien tallied the game-winning goal on a delayed penalty at 7:54 of overtime as Binghamton earned a 2-1 road win over Houston on Saturday at Toyota Center, evening the 2011 Calder Cup Finals at one game apiece.
Off a broken play in the attacking zone, O’Brien collected a bouncing puck in the right slot and wristed a shot which beat Houston goaltender Matt Hackett five-hole. Erik Condra picked up the lone assist on the play, as O’Brien registered his third goal of the playoffs and first since scoring in Game 6 of the second round vs. Portland.
The 22-year-old O’Brien was drafted 29th overall by Ottawa in 2007 and recorded 24 regular-season goals in 74 games this year after totaling only eight in 76 contests as a rookie in 2009-10.
For the second time in as many games, rookie forward Bobby Butler staked the Senators to a 1-0 first-period lead, this one coming on an early power play just 1:45 after the opening face-off. Butler now shows 12 goals (12-3-15) in 19 games, just two shy of the AHL rookie record for a single postseason.
The Aeros answered a little less than three minutes later on a power play of their own, as rookie forward Casey Wellman buried his sixth goal of the playoffs and third in the past three games (3-0-3). It remained a 1-1 deadlock until O’Brien’s heroics in overtime.
Senators goaltender Robin Lehner turned aside 28 of 29 shots – including a pair of prime scoring chances for Houston in the extra session – to improve to 11-3 in 15 playoff appearances. Matt Hackett took the loss for the Aeros after making 19 saves.
The Senators escaped Houston with a split despite totaling only three goals in the two games after racking up 21 goals in their four-game sweep of Charlotte in the Eastern Conference Finals. Binghamton improved to 9-2 on the road this postseason, while the Aeros lost at home for just the third time (8-3).
Attendance at Toyota Center was 9,002, as the for a second straight night the Aeros welcomed their largest crowd for a playoff game since joining the AHL in 2001-02.
After three off-days, the series will shift to the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton for Game 3 on Wednesday night. Game 4 is set for Friday, and Game 5 – now assured of being necessary – will be played next Saturday (June 4).
2011 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
W2-Houston Aeros vs. E5-Binghamton Senators
Game 1 – Fri., May 27 – HOUSTON 3, Binghamton 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 28 – Binghamton 2, HOUSTON 1 (OT)
Game 3 – Wed., June 1 – Houston at Binghamton, 7:05
Game 4 – Fri., June 3 – Houston at Binghamton, 7:05
Game 5 – Sat., June 4 – Houston at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Tue., June 7 – Binghamton at Houston, 8:05
*Game 7 – Thu., June 9 – Binghamton at Houston, 8:05