TORONTO — Michael Carcone completed his hat trick at 7:34 of overtime as the Toronto Marlies defeated the Charlotte Checkers 4-3 on Thursday to even the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference final at two games apiece.
Jeremy Bracco also scored for the Marlies, while Carcone added an assist for a four-point night. Kasimir Kaskisuo made 29 saves.
Andrew Poturalski, with a goal and an assist, Julien Gauthier and Jesper Sellgren replied for the Checkers, while Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 24 shots.
Game 5 of the series goes Friday back at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
The winner of Toronto-Charlotte will take on either the San Diego Gulls or Chicago Wolves in the Calder Cup. San Diego leads that series 2-1.
Carcone scored his third goal of the night in an back-and-forth extra period, snapping his sixth goal of the playoffs past Nedeljkovic.
Tied 1-1 after two periods, Sellgren gave Charlotte — the AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes — its first lead 68 seconds into the third when he wheeled in the offensive zone and snapped a shot off the far post and in past Kaskisuo with the teams playing 4-on-4.
Toronto responded at 5:07 when Carcone scored his second of the night on a deflection of Jesper Lindgren’s weak point shot.
Poturalski, who leads the AHL playoffs in scoring 17 points, restored Charlotte’s advantage with a shot shortside at 5:07 on a power play.
But Bracco got the Marlies back even at 3-3 with 8:44 left in regulation on a spinning backhand from near the goal line that fooled Nedeljkovic through the five-hole.
With both Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock looking on from a private suite, Toronto coughed up a 1-0 lead at 3:40 of the second when Kaskisuo gave the puck away behind his own net on a Marlies power play to Nicolas Roy, who quickly fed Gauthier in front.
Carcone had a chance to get the home side back in front later in the period, but Nedeljkovic stopped the winger on a partial breakaway.
Charlotte, which won an AHL-high 51 games in the regular season, kept coming and had Toronto on its heels as the second wore on. Gauthier forced a toe stop out of Kaskisuo after stepping around and drawing a penalty on Marlies defenceman Andreas Borgman before Morgan Geekie rang a shot off the post.
Toronto, which won the 2018 Calder Cup, opened the scoring late in a physical first when Carcone’s shot deflected in off Checkers defenceman Josiah Didier, who had been battling with Marlies forward Mason Marchment in front of Nedeljkovic.