WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Simply check the standings, and the gap between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and first place in the Atlantic Division is rather wide. But, in two consecutive games against division leader Charlotte, the Pens showed how close they really are. The Penguins responded to a 1-goal loss Friday to Charlotte with an intense and efficient first period when the teams met again Saturday. They even dug deep for a late tie after their three-goal lead evaporated and became a deficit as regulation reached its conclusion. Charlotte flexed its muscles again, though, and scored a 6-5 overtime victory when Aleksi Saarela ripped a one-timer just inside the post during the extra 3-on-3 period. It’s the sixth straight time the Checkers have beaten the Penguins in the regular season and postseason, a streak that dates back to March. “That’s a good team. You can’t let them up,” Pens coach Clark Donatelli said. “(At) 4-1, I thought we let off the gas pedal. They got the second wind.” Adam Johnson scored twice to double his season’s goal total, Stefan Elliott netted his first goal of the season, and Thomas Di Pauli and Anthony Angello also scored for the Penguins. They matched their season-high in scoring on Angello’s tying goal with 4:17 to play, when he got his stick on a rebound at the crease and laid down a wide-open goal. The crunch-time theatrics wouldn’t have been necessary if Wilkes-Barre/Scranton maintained its powerful 4-1 lead at the night’s midway point. Quick scoring bursts derailed what was shaping up to be a big win for the division’s fifth-place team. Charlotte regained the lead, 5-4, on goals by Dan Renouf and Greg McKegg, the latter on a power play 59 seconds following the former. In the second period, the Checkers found another quick spark with two goals separated by less than two minutes. “We fell on our heels, making some mental mistakes,” Donatelli said. “They’re just too good (for that). You give them a chance, it’s in the back of your net. “I liked how we came back and tied it, but our guys got to be more consistent.” It all wiped away a hot start for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which set the tone almost immediately. Only 26 seconds had passed from the puck drop before Penguins left wing Joseph Cramarossa and Checkers defenseman Dan Renouf fought; Renouf also picked up a game misconduct for continuing the altercation. It was the fastest penalty in a Penguins game since newly re-assigned Garrett Wilson and Hershey’s Liam O’Brien needed just six seconds to drop gloves Oct. 27. Though Charlotte struck first — Trevor Carrick got a pass over to Saarela for a snap shot as Carrick lost his footing — the Penguins owned the rest of the period. They tied the game 55 seconds later on Johnson’s shot through traffic on a power play, one night after missed chances on the advantage hurt the Pens in their loss. The lamp lit up again 53 seconds later. Elliott skated along the boards down the right wing, and his seemingly innocuous shot got past the goalie’s glove side. Later in the period, Di Pauli crashed the net and buried a pass from the end boards for a 3-1 lead. Johnson’s quick wrist on a loose rebound gave the Penguins their fourth consecutive goal after the first intermission. “As a group, our leadership group, we’ve got to get stronger and buckle down,” Donatelli said. “When you’re up 4-1 at home, you’ve got to win the game.” Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-821-2054; @CVEricShultz on Twitter Charlotte 1 2 2 1 - 6 Penguins 3 1 1 0 - 5 1st Period-1, Charlotte, Saarela 3 (Carrick, Gauthier), 5:35. 2, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Johnson 3 (Prow, Lafferty), 6:30 (PP). 3, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Elliott 1 (Cramarossa, Czuczman), 7:23. 4, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Di Pauli 3 (Hayes, Blueger), 14:17. Penalties-Renouf Cha (fighting, misconduct - continuing altercation), 0:26; Cramarossa Wbs (fighting), 0:26; Stortini Cha (elbowing), 5:37; served by Saarela Cha (unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:28; Taylor Wbs (hooking), 15:08; Stortini Cha (boarding, roughing), 17:52; Czuczman Wbs (roughing), 17:52. 2nd Period-5, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Johnson 4 (Lafferty, Haggerty), 2:57. 6, Charlotte, Pu 1 (McKeown, Lorentz), 11:30. 7, Charlotte, Necas 2 (Kuokkanen, Renouf), 13:26. Penalties-Cramarossa Wbs (slashing), 14:27. 3rd Period-8, Charlotte, Renouf 1 (Schilkey), 11:02. 9, Charlotte, McKegg 2 (Kuokkanen, Carrick), 12:01 (PP). 10, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Angello 7 (Czuczman, Lindberg), 15:43. Penalties-Lindberg Wbs (holding), 11:55. OT Period-11, Charlotte, Saarela 4 (Poturalski), 1:26. Penalties-No Penalties Shots on Goal-Charlotte 8-10-14-1-33. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 11-15-7-0-33. Power Play Opportunities-Charlotte 1 / 3; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1 / 2. Goalies-Charlotte, Nedeljkovic 10-2-1 (10 shots-7 saves); Booth 1-1-0 (23 shots-21 saves). Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Peters 4-1-0 (33 shots-27 saves). A-4,461 Referees-Mitch Dunning (43), Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen-Matt McNulty (26), Jason Mandroc (17). Three stars 1. Charlotte C Aleksi Saarela, 2 goals, game-winner 2. Penguins LW Adam Johnson, 2 goals 3. Penguins RW Anthony Angello, goal By the numbers 53 — Seconds between first-period goals by Adam Johnson and Stefan Elliott. The Penguins have had goals separated by 60 seconds or less in four of their nine games played in November. Up next The Pens head to Springfield to take on the Thunderbirds on Friday at 7:05 p.m. AHL standings North Division Atlantic Division Central Division Pacific Division Wednesday’s games Belleville 5, Utica 4, SO Syracuse 5, Binghamton 2 Lehigh Valley 3, Charlotte 2, OT Iowa 3, Milwaukee 0 Manitoba 5, Texas 4 Stockton 4, Colorado 2 Friday’s games Belleville 5, Toronto 4, OT Hershey 6, Cleveland 1 Ontario 4, Grand Rapids 3 Syracuse 4, Utica 0 Charlotte 2, Penguins 1 Lehigh Valley 5, Providence 4 Springfield 9, Rochester 4 Bridgeport 2, Laval 1, SO Iowa 6, Milwaukee 0 Texas 5, Rockford 1 San Diego 4, Bakersfield 1 Stockton 3, Tucson 1 Saturday’s games Binghamton 2, Toronto 1 Bridgeport 2, Belleville 1 Cleveland 5, Hershey 2 Grand Rapids 3, Manitoba 2, OT Hartford 6, Utica 3 Milwaukee 2, Ontario 1 Syracuse 6, Laval 4 Charlotte 6, Penguins 5, OT Providence 3, Rochester 2, OT Springfield 3, Lehigh Valley 2 Iowa 4, Chicago 3, OT San Antonio 2, Rockford 1 Colorado at Bakersfield, (n.) Today’s games Rochester at Hartford, 3 p.m. Binghamton at Toronto, 4 p.m. Manitoba at Chicago, 4 p.m. Colorado at San Jose, 8 p.m.