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O'Brien scores in OT as Baby Senators beat Aeros 2-1, tie Calder Cup 1-1

HOUSTON - After dropping the opener of the American Hockey League final, Kurt Kleinendorst said his team didn't deserve to win.

The Binghamton head coach wasn't thrilled with the Senators' performance in Game 2, but he was happy with the result.

Jim O'Brien scored 7:54 into overtime Saturday as Binghamton beat the Houston Aeros 2-1 to even the Calder Cup at a game apiece.

Game 3 is Wednesday in Binghamtom, N.Y.

"We knew we had to be better," Kleinendorst said of his team's 3-1 loss in the series opener. "I think we were a little better, but we're still going to have to be better yet. That's a good team over there and I think this is what it's going to be like."

On the winner, Binghamton's Eric Condra stole the puck at the blue-line and fed O'Brien, who one-timed a shot past Houston goalie Matt Hackett.

"It felt great," O'Brien said. "It's a fine line, and we're happy to get a win tonight. We would feel a lot worse if we were down 2-0. Now, we go back to home ice and hopefully, get a few wins there."

Bobby Butler put Binghamton, the Ottawa Senators minor league affiliate, up 1-0 at 1:45 in the first with a power-play goal. Kaspars Daugavins fed Butler in the right circle and he beat Hackett.

The Aeros, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, tied things 1-1 at 4:27 in the first on a goal by Casey Wellman. Robbie Earl's shot went wide and hit Wellman's skate, then deflected off Senators goalie Robin Lehner's stick and into the net.

"I think today was a big step forward from yesterday, but I think we have at least one or two gears left within," said Lehner, who finished with 28 saves. "We have a lot of goal scorers who can step up. I think it's just a matter of time until everyone puts it in the net."

Hackett stopped 19 shots.

"Hackett is a good goalie, but if we test him, we will be in games. I don't think we have tested him a lot," Lehner said. "I think we can test him more than we have. I'm not saying we aren't playing good, but I know we can play better."

Binghamton had numerous opportunities to take a 2-1 lead in the second, with Zack Smith hitting the post 55 seconds into the period. Colin Greening followed minutes later with two shots off the far post.

"I thought the effort was there," Kleinendorst said. "But we can be better and some of our key players can still be better, but as far as effort goes, I liked the effort. We wouldn't have won this game if we weren't battling hard."

With the Senators on the power play in the final minute of the second, the Aeros thought they took the lead with a short-handed goal. Maxim Noreau had his shot blocked by Lehner, but the rebound hit Daugavins' stick and went in. However, the goal was nullified because Daugavins had been whistled for a slash moments before.

The Senators, who have averaged nearly four goals a game in the playoffs and have had the power play clicking at over 20 per cent, knows one-goal games and going 1-for-6 with the man advantage might be the norm for this series.

"They are a good team that is playing hard," O'Brien said. "It's the finals and everyone is stepping up their game. It's going to be one-goal games. I don't think we are going to be able to score six or seven goals. We have to work for our chances and work for our goals."

Houston went 1-for-5 with the man advantage, and Binghamton killed an Aeros power play in the overtime to set up the game winner.

Lehner said the Senators bared down in the third period and overtime until Houston made its mistake.

"If we don't win tonight, I think we would have a hard time," he said. "It wouldn't be over, but it would be another Manchester series with everything on the line every game. It gives a little bit of room breathe and start playing our game. We played a good effort today, but I know we can play a lot better."