TORONTO, Ont. – The Charlotte Checkers and Toronto Marlies needed extra time to decide game four of the East Final on Thursday, with either a 3-1 lead for Charlotte or an even series riding on the result.
The game would need overtime after a back-and-forth third period saw Charlotte grab the lead twice, only to have Toronto answer both times. Toronto then took control in overtime, outshooting Charlotte 5-0 in the extra session. Michael Carcone ended the festivities and evened the series by bagging his third goal of the night 7:29 into the fourth period.
The game started with an even opening frame which saw just one puck elude a goaltender. That moment was provided by the Marlies, as Carcone found twine for the first part of his hat trick. The goal came just seconds after a Toronto power play had expired and before Charlotte could reset its defense. Carcone accepted a pass from Adam Brooks then blasted a slapper from the top of the far dot that forced its way through Charlotte tender Alex Nedeljkovic to give Toronto a 1-0 with 2:48 to play in period one.
Toronto took the edge to the middle frame, but Charlotte wasted little time in forcing a mistake and capitalizing to pull even. The Checkers were killing a minor just over three minutes into the second when they sent a clearing attempt down the ice. Toronto goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo came out to cut the puck off behind the net, but his attempted pass around the boards was cut off by Zach Nastasiuk behind the net. Nastasiuk immediately looked up, spotted Nicolas Roy flying into the slot and quickly zipped the biscuit to Roy, who sent a one-timer between the legs of a desperate Kaskisuo.
That would be the only tally of the middle stanza, and the game headed to the final frame of regulation even at one.
The third period was an intense battle of wills, with Charlotte taking the lead twice only to see Toronto fight back and equalize. The action started just 1:08 into the third, as Charlotte was able to take advantage of the extra space and cash in while four-on-four. The marker came from Jesper Sellgren, who took a pass from Andrew Poturalski and circled from the top of the slot down to the far circle. He slowed up, took aim, and released a laser of a wrister that went over the right shoulder of Kaskisuo and into the upper-90. The goal was the second of the playoffs for the rookie playing in just his fifth AHL game, and gave the visitors a 2-1 advantage.
Charlotte held the lead for just four minutes, before a heads-up play by Carcone leveled the score for the first time in the period. The Checkers sent a clearing attempt to the point that was held in by Jesper Lindgren, who immediately sent a slow trickling shot towards Nedeljkovic. The Charlotte goalie looked to have it tracked, but at the last moment, Carcone reached out and got the tip of his stick on it and redirected the puck between the legs of Nedeljkovic to make it 2-2 with 14:53 still to play in period three. Trevor Carrick took a pass at the near point, then sent across the ice to Poturalski at the opposite point. Poturalski stepped up to the dot and wired a wrist shot that made it through the traffic in front and into the cage. The goal gave Charlotte its second lead of the third, 3-2 with 12:15 to play in regulation.
Toronto was not ready to concede and pulled even for a second time with 8:44 left in regulation. Carcone got the primary assist on this one, as he sent a dump flipping into the near corner. Jeremy Bracco was first to the puck, quickly spun, sending a low backhander on goal. The puck found a hole in Nedeljkovic and pulled Toronto back level at three with under nine to play.
The Marlies controlled the extra session, always looking to be the team on the verge of victory. Shots in the overtime period were 5-0 in favor of the home side and Charlotte never looked close to cashing. The winning moment came off a great snipe from Carcone, as Carcone took a pass from Lindgren and carried it into the faceoff circle. Carcone released a snipe into the top corner to send the headgear flying and even the series at 2-2. Carcone was easily the star of the night, as he posted three goals and a helper in game four. Poturalski led the way for Charlotte, potting a goal and an assist.
With the win, Toronto evens the best-of-seven series at two games each. The two sides will prep for a pivotal game five, which comes tonight in Toronto. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. CT inside Coca-Cola Coliseum.
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