WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 5, SPRINGFIELD 4 (OT)
Defenseman Deryk Engelland scored just his third goal of the season 4:26 into overtime as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton completed its rally from a 4-1 deficit to claim a 5-4 win over Springfield on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Penguins remained tied with Bridgeport, which won at Syracuse, for the East Division’s fourth and final playoff spot. Both clubs own 75 points with 11 games to play.
This one got out to a bleak start for the Penguins, as Springfield claimed a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes and a 4-1 advantage heading into the third period, with Nick Johnson registering Wilkes-Barre’s only goal in that span.
Making his AHL season debut after a 106-point junior showing for Regina (WHL), former first-round draft pick Jordan Eberle registered a goal and an assist for the Falcons.
Konstantin Pushkarev began the Penguins’ comeback by scoring 3:12 into the third period, Johnson cut the deficit to 4-3 at 9:09, and Chris Conner’s 18th goal of the season tied it just 31 seconds later.
Mark Letestu picked up his second assist of the night on Engelland’s overtime winner, and Joe Vitale also earned a helper. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo posted two assists and was plus-3 on the night for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Penguins rookie goaltender Brad Thiessen emerged with the victory after making 22 saves between the pipes. Springfield’s Jean-Philippe Levasseur took the loss despite finishing with 50 saves on 55 shots.
HERSHEY 8, ALBANY 2
Keith Aucoin scored twice and Chris Bourque put up a game-high three points (1-2-3) as Hershey rolled to an 8-2 win over visiting Albany on Friday before 10,389 fans at the Giant Center.
The Bears extended an AHL record with their 24th consecutive home win, and Hershey set a franchise record with its 52nd victory overall on the season (52-13-0-2). The previous record was 51 wins, set just three years ago en route to a berth in the Calder Cup Finals.
The Bears have now won five straight games over Albany and outscored the River Rats 36-14 during that span.
Defenseman Jonathan Paiement notched both goals for the River Rats, whose four-game winning streak and eight-game points streak (6-0-0-2) both came to an end.
PROVIDENCE 4, LOWELL 2
Goaltender Dany Sabourin stood tall with 46 saves on 48 shots as Providence doubled up host Lowell by a 4-2 count on Friday at the Tsongas Center.
It marked Sabourin’s second-highest save total of the season, topped only by a 51-save effort at Worcester on Jan. 9, a game the Bruins ended up losing by a 4-3 count.
Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk netted a pair of goals for the Bruins, his fourth and fifth markers of the season. Jordan Knackstedt and Mikko Lehtonen also scored in the victory, while Trent Whitfield and defenseman Cody Wild each chipped in two assists.
With the victory, Providence remained five points back of Bridgeport and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the Eastern Conference’s final postseason spot.
BINGHAMTON 4, ROCHESTER 2
Martin St. Pierre tallied a pair of power play goals and added an assist as Binghamton doubled up visiting Rochester by a 4-2 count at the Broome County Arena.
The game turned historic in the waning moments when Senators goaltender Chris Holt sent the puck the length of the ice for an empty-net goal, becoming the 10th netminder in AHL history to be credited with a goal and the sixth to actually fire the puck into the net.
Holt’s empty-net, power play goal at 19:36 of the third period was assisted by St. Pierre and defenseman Brian Lee.
NORFOLK 8, ADIRONDACK 4
Held to just seven scores over the course of a four-game winless skid, Norfolk erupted for a season-high eight goals en route to an 8-4 win over Adirondack on Friday at the Scope.
The Admirals put up their highest offensive output since an 8-2 win over Binghamton on Nov. 17, 2006, and maintained a one-point edge on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for third place in the East Division playoff race.
Ryan Craig registered a goal and two assists in the victory, while Mitch Fadden and 2009 first-round draft pick Carter Ashton rounded out Norfolk’s offensive attack. Ashton, who doesn’t turn 19 until Apr. 1, scored his first professional goal.
The teams will square off again on Saturday night in Norfolk.
HAMILTON 5, LAKE ERIE 3
Hamilton stayed hot and kept Lake Erie reeling with a 5-3 win over the host Monsters on Friday before 11,348 fans at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Bulldogs won their third straight and moved to 12-1-0-0 in their last 13 contests while reducing their magic number to clinch the North Division title to one.
Lake Erie, meanwhile, is now winless in six straight games (0-4-0-2) but remained five points back of Manitoba for the North’s fourth and final postseason berth.
Bulldogs goaltender Curtis Sanford earned the victory with 26 saves on 29 shots between the pipes.
PORTLAND 4, MANCHESTER 3 (SO)
For the second time in a four-day span, Nathan Gerbe and Mark Mancari scored in the first and third shootout rounds, respectively, to lead Portland to victory. This time, it came in the version of a 4-3 triumph over host Manchester at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Gerbe and Mancari, who turned the trick on Tuesday vs. Lowell, beat Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier to pull the Pirates within two points of first-place Worcester in the Atlantic Division, although the Sharks hold two games in hand.
The Pirates battled back from a trio of one-goal deficits in regulation, as Paul Byron, rookie Tyler Ennis, and Mancari each found the back of the net. Mancari tied it at 3-3 with 10:26 left to play, and Gerbe earned one of the assists.
Defenseman Mike Weber posted two helpers for Portland, which played its third consecutive shootout game. Goaltender J.P. Lamoureux made 19 saves before denying all four of Manchester’s shootout tries.
BRIDGEPORT 3, SYRACUSE 2
Bridgeport edged host Syracuse by a 3-2 count on Friday at the Onondaga County War Memorial in a game where all five goals were scored in the second period.
But after Kolarik’s score 24 seconds in, Michael Haley put the Sound Tigers on the board at 2:10, and Jeremy Reich scored twice in a 4:10 span later in the period to give Bridgeport a 3-2 lead.
Reich, who spent four seasons (2000-04) with the Crunch to begin his pro career, tied the game at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal 11:40 into the second period and then notched the eventual game-winner at 15:50.
Goaltender Scott Munroe made 33 saves as Bridgeport collected its sixth straight win and remained tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (75 points apiece) for the East Division’s fourth and final playoff berth.
Syracuse dropped to 1-4-0-0 in its last five outings.
PEORIA 3, ROCKFORD 1
Peoria scored once in each period and continued its push toward the playoffs with a 3-1 road win over Rockford on Friday at the MetroCentre.
The Rivermen, who snapped Rockford’s six-game home winning streak, are now just three points back of Milwaukee for the West Division’s fourth and final postseason spot.
GRAND RAPIDS 4, MANITOBA 3
Grand Rapids kept its slim playoff hopes alive on Friday with a huge 4-3 road win over Manitoba before 8,800 fans at the MTS Centre.
The Griffins extended their points streak to six games (4-0-1-1) – beginning with a 4-1 win over Manitoba on Mar. 5 – and moved within eight points of the Moose for the North Division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Grand Rapids (64 points), however, still has to climb over both Toronto (65) and Lake Erie (67) before reaching Manitoba (72).
Veteran forward Brad May began the night by scoring his first career AHL goal, while Francis Pare and John Vigilante posted a goal and an assist for the Griffins. Jeremy Williams also scored, and goaltender Daniel Larsson earned the win with 28 saves in net.