Penguins KO Bears, clinch playoff spot

Erik Christensen scored with 5:35 left in regulation as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ended Hershey’s playoff hopes with a 3-2 victory over the Bears at the Giant Center on Sunday evening.

The defending Eastern Conference champion Penguins are off to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the third straight spring and the fourth time in the franchise’s six seasons.

The Bears, meanwhile, will miss the postseason for the second year in a row. Hershey hadn’t missed back-to-back playoffs since 1984-85.

Eric Perrin and Mathieu Darche gave Hershey a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. But Kris Beech tied the score at the 5:11 mark, and the rookie Christensen won it with his 14th goal of the season.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for the Penguins.

Wilkes-Barre has won just two of its last 10 games, but both were key wins over the Bears this week. The Penguins are now three points behind third-place Norfolk in the East Division.

Elsewhere on Sunday:
Yann Danis made 21 saves as Hamilton moved to within one point of securing a playoff spot in the North Division with a 4-1 win over Manitoba… Graham Mink and Brooks Laich scored in the third period as Portland ended a nine-game winless streak with a 3-2 win over Lowell… Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist to lead Binghamton past Bridgeport, 6-2… Dennis Seidenberg got the deciding goal as Philadelphia snapped Albany’s seven-game winning streak with a 3-2 overtime victory… Hannu Toivonen made 25 saves to help Providence to a 2-1 win over Hartford… Paul Ranger broke a tie with 1:29 left in regulation and Springfield went on to a 4-2 win over Worcester… Frederic Cassivi made 32 saves for his third straight shutout and league-leading 10th of the season as Cincinnati edged Cleveland again, 1-0… Houston kept pace with the Mighty Ducks in the West Division, as Rickard Wallin tallied a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win over San Antonio.