Zack Smith had four points – including a hat trick – to lead Binghamton’s potent offense and Robin Lehner made 37 saves as the Senators closed in on their first Eastern Conference championship with a convincing 7-1 win over Charlotte at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena on Tuesday night.
The Senators, with a 3-0 series lead, can advance to the Calder Cup Finals with another win on Wednesday. No Binghamton AHL team has reached the Finals since the 1982 Whalers.
Smith blasted a shot past Mike Murphy for an unassisted goal 3:41 into the second, then tallied Binghamton’s fourth shorthanded goal of the 2011 postseason just 2:28 later to make it a three-goal game.
Charlotte, which already has two victories to its credit this postseason in games it trailed 3-0, got on the board when Jon Matsumoto scored with 8:39 left in the second period, but the Checkers never got any closer.
Ryan Keller scored on a power play in the opening minute of the third period, Bobby Butler banked home a shot from a sharp angle at 11:23, and Smith completed a hat trick 80 seconds later after Justin Pogge had replaced Murphy in the Charlotte net.
Roman Wick finished the scoring off an odd-man rush with 53.9 seconds left.
Murphy, who had a 1.49 GAA and a .955 save percentage in the Checkers’ six-game upset of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the last round, has allowed 13 goals on 74 shots (5.58, .824) and been lifted twice in three starts vs. Binghamton.
The Senators scored at least six goals in a game for the fourth time this postseason and are averaging 3.94 goals per playoff game. They have outscored Charlotte 17-5 in the series.
Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E3-Charlotte Checkers vs. E5-Binghamton Senators
Game 1 – Thu., May 12 – Binghamton 7, CHARLOTTE 4
Game 2 – Fri., May 13 – Binghamton 3, CHARLOTTE 0
Game 3 – Tue., May 17 – BINGHAMTON 7, Charlotte 1
Game 4 – Wed., May 18 – Charlotte at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., May 21 – Charlotte at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Mon., May 23 – Binghamton at Charlotte, 7:05
*Game 7 – Tue., May 24 – Binghamton at Charlotte, 7:05