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Calder Cup Finals: Texas Stars take Game 4, knot series

McKenzie scores twice as Texas' top line comes up big in a 3-2 win over Toronto

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- The Calder Cup Finals is now down to a best-of-three.

Justin Dowling's tiebreaking goal midway through the third period lifted the Texas Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Marlies on Thursday night at H-E-B Center, tying the AHL's Championship series at 2-2.

Game 5 is Saturday in Cedar Park.

 

[RELATED: Laxdal always learning, growing while leading Texas Stars]

 

"Our top line led our hockey club tonight," Texas coach Derek Laxdal said of the trio of Curtis McKenzie, Justin Dowling, and Travis Morin.

The Stars built a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by McKenzie, but after the Marlies bounced back with two quick goals late in the second period, Dowling broke the tie at 9:58 of the third, deflecting a Matt Mangene shot from the right point past Toronto goalie Garret Sparks to put Texas ahead 3-2.

'McKenzie was outstanding tonight, along with Dowling," Laxdal said. "Dowling has had an outstanding playoff for us. His play has risen to a level that we've been trying to get him to for three-and-a-half years. That line was great for us."

The line of Morin, Dowling, and McKenzie combined for three goals and three assists in Thursday's win. The three veterans - who were all members of Texas' 2014 Calder Cup winning team - have combined for 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in the first four games of the Calder Cup Finals.

"We're three guys that have been here before, and we knew that's something that we had to our advantage this series," McKenzie said.

Video: Texas Stars hang on late for Game 4 win over Toronto

"We've just challenged each other this series to be the leaders and have the other guys follow because we've been in the situations before. Morin and Dowling have been great all series, and we're clicking right now."

The Stars got another strong performance from goaltender Mike McKenna, who stopped 29 of 31 shots.

Toronto made a strong push to start the game, Texas pushed back a few minutes into the first period and then took the lead by cashing in on the game's first power play. With Toronto defenseman Justin Holl in the box for tripping, Morin put a shot on net from the right circle and McKenzie scored on the rebound to give Texas a 1-0 lead 9:22 into the game.

Toronto had one chance on the power play in the first, but McKenna made some big saves, and another Marlies shot hit the post.

Texas pushed the lead to 2-0 at 6:00 of the second when Dowling picked off a pass in the Stars end, skated into the Toronto zone and set up McKenzie, who scored off a blast from the slot.

But the Marlies scored two goals in 40 seconds late in the second period to tie the game 2-2. Dmytro Timashov got credit for the first goal when Stars defenseman Brent Regner accidentally put the puck into his own net to make it a 2-1 game at the 16:11 mark. Then, Andreas Johnsson scored on a two-on-one rush to tie the game 2-2 at 16:51 of the second.

That sent the game to the third period where Dowling notched the game-winner to draw the Stars even in the series.

"That was a grind game for both teams," said Laxdal. "It's a best-of-three now and we get ready for Saturday night.

 

Notes
  • All four games of the series have been decided by one goal.

  • Texas is 10-4 in one-goal games in the playoffs.

  • Toronto is 7-2 in one-goal games.

  • Thursdays' game was the first in the series in which the team that scored first won.

  • Curtis McKenzie's two goals were his league-leading ninth and 10th of the AHL playoffs. He also leads the league with 19 points.

  • Toronto outshot the Stars 31-18.

  • The Stars were 1-2 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

  • Forward Denis Gurianov returned to the Texas lineup after sitting out the last four games as a healthy scratch. He started the game on a line with Jason Dickinson and Sheldon Dries and then was moved to a line with Roope Hintz and Brian Flynn.

  • Attendance in Cedar Park Thursday was 6,863, a sellout. All four games of the Calder Cup Finals -- two in Toronto and two in Cedar Park -- have been sellouts.

 

Texas lineup

Travis Morin - Justin Dowling - Curtis McKenzie 
Jason Dickinson - Sheldon Dries - Denis Gurianov 
Remi Elie - Roope Hintz - Brian Flynn 
Austin Fyten - Joel L'Esperance - Colin Markison

Dillon Heatherington - Brent Regner 
Andrew Bodnarchuk - Reece Scarlett 
Gavin Bayreuther - Matt Mangene

Mike McKenna 
Landon Bow

 

Calder Cup Finals (Series tied 2-2)

Game 1 - Sat., June 2 - Texas at Toronto: Marlies 6, Stars 5 
Game 2 - Sun., June 3 - Texas at Toronto: Stars 2, Marlies 1 
Game 3 - Tue., June 5 - Toronto at Texas: Marlies 2, Stars 1 
Game 4 - Thu., June 7 - Toronto at Texas: Stars 3, Marlies 2 
Game 5 - Sat., June 9 - Toronto at Texas, 7:00 p.m. CT (Fox Sports Southwest & Plus, NHL Network) 
Game 6 - Tue., June 12 - Texas at Toronto, 6:00 p.m. CT (NHL Network) 
*Game 7 - Thu., June 14 - Texas at Toronto, 6:00 p.m. CT (NHL Network) 
*if necessary

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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