HERSHEY — At least the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins gained a much-needed point.
But Chris Bourque and the rival Hershey Bears made a point of their own.
They’re not going away anytime soon.
In the end, Bourque was too much for the Penguins, working a nifty pass for an assist on a tying third-period goal Sunday before scoring the game-winner in overtime of Hershey’s 4-3 victory at the Giant Center.
But the Penguins salvaged a point by sending the game past regulation, thanks to a Tom Sestito tip-in that immediately answered Hershey’s third goal and ultimately forced the overtime.
“I thought our effort was there, our compete was there more than last (Saturday) night,” said an upbeat Penguins coach Clark Donatelli, who praised his team’s ability to rebound after suffering a 5-2 loss to Rochester less than 24 hours before Sunday’s showdown with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s chief antagonist. “Tough building to come in and play.”
But the play of Bourque dropped the Penguins to their third loss in four games — a stretch during which Wilkes-Barre/Scranton slid out of first place in the AHL Atlantic Division.
The Penguins fell to 13-5-2-1 and, with 29 points, share second place with Lehigh Valley. They’re now behind 30-point teams Providence and Charlotte in the early-season division standings, but Hershey is coming quickly. The Bears moved to 11-10-0-3 and, with 27 points, are just a win away from catching the Penguins.
Bourque had plenty to do with that.
He was the giver on a give-and-go goal that Liam O’Brien sizzled past goalie Anthony Peters and into the right corner of the cage to erase a 2-0 first-period lead for the Penguins and even the game at 2-2 midway through the final period.
Then, just 75 seconds into the overtime session, Bourque lit the lamp with a one-timer, sending the Bears to celebration.
It capped off a festival-like night for the Bears, who held a bear toss and brought an avalanche of stuffed bears launched from the stands and onto the ice when O’Brien pulled Hershey within 2-1 with the first of his two goals late in the second period.
“Obviously, to get those teddy bears on the ice, it was an exciting time for us,” Bourque said.
Neither team was particularly warm and fuzzy down the stretch, though.
Jonas Siegenthaler beat Peters from outside the right circle with a laser just inside the post for a 3-2 Bears lead with 6:10 remaining.
But just 55 seconds later, Sestito came back by chipping Josh Archibald’s cross-ice pass into the net to tie the game and, ultimately, provide the Penguins with at least a point from the night.
“They’ve got a big team, a lot of skill over there,” Donatelli said. “It’s a tough place to win. After they scored, we came right back and tied it up. For us to come back, it shows a lot of resiliency and character of Tommy Sestito.”