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Spencer Abbott scores hat trick as Marlies beat Stars to tie West final at two

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TORONTO - Mired in a 10-game scoring slump dating back to the regular season, Marlies forward Spencer Abbott elected to go against a popular post-season trend and shave his playoff beard Thursday morning.

The move paid off as Abbott scored a natural hat trick to lead the Toronto Marlies to a 4-1 win over the Texas Stars that ties the American Hockey League's Western Conference final at two.

"It wasn't working for me personally so I decided to switch something up," said Abbott of the fresh shave. "I was kind of hearing it when I first did it there, but I guess now they can't really say a whole lot. I was in a bit of a slump there and it's nice to get that off my back. Getting three is just a bonus."

Added Marlies coach Steve Spott: "(He) wanted to reset and a fresh start so he definitely did that. I'm going to get to the Shoppers Drug Mart, maybe get some razors. It's funny how superstition plays a part of this. Whatever works, but it definitely worked for Spencer tonight."

Abbott, who had not scored in seven playoff games after missing 12 games with a shoulder injury, picked up all three goals on Marlies' power plays. Defenceman T.J. Brennan assisted on all three Abbott goals while Peter Holland extended his point streak to eight games with two assists.

"I think it's all a credit to my line mates," said Holland of the streak. "I've been playing with great players and Spotter's been putting me in great situations in order to get the job done and when the power play is going, you can get on the score sheet. As long as we're winning, the points don't really matter to me."

With Marlies defenceman Andrew MacWilliam off for boarding at 14:26 of the third, the Stars pulled goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp giving Texas a two minute, two-man advantage, but the visitors were unable to capitalize.

Following the penalty kill, Jerry D'Amigo added an empty netter to give Toronto a four-goal cushion.

However, with just 1:42 remaining, Radek Faksa spoiled Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre's bid for his third shutout of the post-season.

MacIntyre made 27 saves for his ninth win of the playoffs, while Nilstorp stopped 24 shots in the loss.

"We've done a good job this year with responding when we've dealt with adversity," said Spott. "We lost two in a row, we definitely didn't play the way that we wanted to play (Wednesday).

"The first (goal) was big, but the second one, that's the one that's been a challenge for us. We've done a pretty good job getting the first goal in this series, but we wanted to have the push back right away to try to get the second one and try to back them off."

With the win, Toronto avoided losing three straight for the second time all season (Nov. 9-14).

Abbott opened the scoring at 1:36 of the first period, beating Nilstorp from the point.

On the Marlies' second power play of the night, Abbott put home the rebound off of a Brennan point shot past a sprawling Nilstorp.

Holland nearly made it 3-0 at 11:20 of the first, beating Nilstorp but hitting the post.

Toronto has now out-scored opponents 16-3 in the opening frame during the Calder Cup playoffs.

Abbott completed the hat trick at 7:05 of the second on a two-man advantage, beating Nilstorp who was screened well by Toronto forward Josh Leivo.

"It was pretty obvious we were giving him the gears a little bit before the game, but hey, whatever you need to do," said Holland of Abbott's shave. "If he's going to score three goals and he's going to help us win, then that's fine by us, but we're going to ride him a little bit longer, that's for sure."

The Marlies finished 3 for 6 with the man advantage while holding the Stars scoreless on five tries.

Stars forward Chris Mueller had his five-game point streak halted in the loss.

Notes: Marlies defenceman Korbinian Holzer missed the game with a lower-body injury and was replaced by Dylan Yeo. Veteran centre Jerred Smithson replaced Tyler Biggs on Toronto's fourth line. ... Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne DeRosario dropped the puck in a pre-game ceremonial faceoff. ... Game 5 of the series goes Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum.

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