Stars pull even with Marlies in Calder Cup final

Curtis McKenzie scored twice as the Texas Stars downed the Toronto Marlies 3-2 on Thursday to even the American Hockey League championship at two wins apiece.

Texas' Curtis McKenzie scores twice to help tie series 2-2

Toronto Marlies captain Ben Smith looks for the puck in front of Texas Stars goalie Mike McKenna. Texas evened the best-of-seven Calder Cup final 2-2. (Twitter/@TorontoMarlies)

Frustration was the main emotion in the Toronto Marlies' locker room on Thursday.

Outshooting the Texas Stars 31-18 and at times completely outplaying them in Game 4 of the Calder Cup final, the Marlies suffered a 3-2 loss and the series is now tied 2-2.

Justin Dowling's deflection goal midway through the third period was the Stars' winner.

"It's frustrating, because that's a winnable game for sure," Marlies defenceman Justin Holl said. "But at the same time you have to give credit to Texas. They came out in the third period, reset, scored the game-winner and that was that. All the games have been one-goal games and it just comes down to coming out on the right side."

Curtis McKenzie scored twice for Texas, while Andreas Johnsson and Dmytro Timashov found the net for Toronto.

Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks made 15 saves. Mike McKenna stopped 29 shots for Texas.

'It's an unfortunate bounce'

The Stars' win assures the series will return to Toronto for Game 6. Game 5 of the best-of-seven series goes Saturday night in Cedar Park, Texas.

Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe noted the margin between winning and losing in the series continues to be razor-thin.

"It's an unfortunate bounce that lands on the stick of their best scorer," he said. "On our first power play, we hit the post and stays out. That's where we're at right now. Some bounces go your way one night and some nights they don't. They were one shot better than us."

The first period saw a couple of odd moments, as McKenna had to have his mask fixed during one stoppage after a shot deflected up into it, while later on the puck hit the lens of a photographer shooting through a hole in the glass and shattered it onto the ice.

McKenzie opened the scoring midway through the first on a power play when he corralled the puck off a Sparks block that sent it high in the air and eventually took a few bounces on the ice before firing it into the net.

'Our guys are dug in'

He put the Stars ahead 2-0 six minutes into the second when he finished a brilliant trailing centring pass from Dowling, who had a breakaway into the Marlies' zone.

Toronto tied the game with two goals in a 40-second span late in the second.

Timashov was credited for the Marlies first goal when Texas essentially had an own goal on a failed clearance right in front of the crease that ended up bouncing into the net.

Moments later, Johnsson tied the game off a pass across the ice from Justin Holl.

"I knew our team was not going to go away," Keefe said. "Our guys are dug in. We're going to keep pushing. To bring it back to 2-2 shows the character of our group. Ultimately, they find a way to get one in during the third and we don't."

Dowling broke the tie at the 9:58 mark of the third period, with Travis Morin earning his second assist of the night.

Special teams key

Keefe lamented his team failing to take advantage of two power plays while Texas capitalized on one of its.

"That's obviously an area we haven't been very good at thus far," he said. "Our power play needs to get a goal for us. Our offence has to come through."

Now for the Marlies, it's putting a frustrating loss behind them and trying to head back home with a series lead.

"We just have to keep pushing," Keefe said. "There's no shifts off; you're playing a real good hockey team in the Calder Cup final. It's a battle out there and it's what we expected it to be for what's at stake."