The Hershey Bears closed out the month of March on Sunday with a battle against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. A night after becoming playoff-bound for the sixth straight season, the Bears fell to Wilkes-Barre in overtime, 3-2.
Coming off a game time of nearly three and a half hours the night before, Hershey would have no easy task taking on a team who already had 51 wins underneath their belt.
The Pens earned an early power play after Mathieu Perrault was sent to the box for a trip. Only four seconds into the man advantage, Andrew Hutchinson ripped a bullet from the face off circle past a screened Braden Holtby.
After taking the early 1-0 led, Wilkes-Barre didn’t fire a single shot for another seven minutes. Hershey possessed two power play opportunities and showed good puck movement around the perimeter of the offensive zone, but, John Curry stonewaledl the Bears on several scoring opportunities keeping his team ahead.
Hershey was down at first intermission despite out shooting the Pens, 13-9. Head Coach Mark French was pleased with his team finishing checks and being physical down low around the net.
In the second stanza, the pace and tempo of the game began to pick up between the bitter rivals, as play began to quickly move end to end. It would take nearly the midway mark of regulation for the Bears to catch good fortune against the Penguins. Brian Strait held the puck in the defensive end for the Penguins when his stick snapped into two pieces. That lead to a brief odd-man rush for Hershey in the slot where Francois Boucahrd lifted a shot top shelf past Curry to tie the game at 1-1.
The Pens would soon answer back cashing in on a power play opportunity. On the man advantage, Ben Street blasted a slap shot off a cross-ice feed, over the glove hand of a sprawled out Holtby to give the Pens a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Instead of trying to protect the one-goal lead in the third, the Penguins made a strong attempt to add to it continuing the pressure on Holtby. The Pens held the Bears to only two shots mid way through the final stanza, shutting down the Hershey offense.
With Hershey once again on shorthanded. Keith Aucoin overcame the tight defense and low shot totals by scoring on Curry with just 1:41 remaining in regulation to tie things up at 2-2, which ultimately forced overtime.
In the OT session Bryan Lerg scored for the Penguins on a shorthanded goal, snapping a wrist shot past Holtby, to give the Pens the 3-2 win and the East Division crown.
The two teams will meet twice more before the end of the 2010-11 regular season.