'Special' night for Tavares

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:52 PM ET

Fifteen-year-old hockey phenom John Tavares called his first OHL game in London "special" but he wasn't referring to the scoreboard.

Though the can't-miss kid managed to score his 11th goal in 11 games, the red-hot Knights still blasted his Oshawa Generals 8-2 en route to their eighth straight victory before 9,090 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

Down four goals in the third period, Tavares got the puck in tight and showed deft hands in shovelling it over Knights goalie Adam Dennis to cut the lead to 5-2.

But London's David Bolland, the OHL's leading scorer, replied less than two minutes later and the Knights went on to hand the struggling Gens their 10th loss in 11 games.

"I really wanted to get one there," Tavares said before boarding the team bus back to Oshawa. "It was a special night. It might be my only trip to London this year and I wanted to play well in this beautiful arena.

"A lot of people thought they weren't going to be as good with all the players they lost, but they're still a very good team."

Dennis shut out Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic in last year's Memorial Cup final, but he couldn't hand a goose egg to Tavares last night.

"He was in close and got it up. He's just 15 years old and he's a good player," the 20-year-old puckstopper said with a grin. "The way the game is now, there aren't going to be a lot of shutouts and goalies' averages are going to go up. I think there's only been one this year, but you always want to make every save, whether the score's 1-0 or 10-1."

Tavares logged over 20 minutes of ice time and played in all situations -- even strength, power play, penalty kill -- and is clearly strong on the puck with good on-ice intelligence.

He'll only get better as he goes along, but the big question is whether Oshawa GM Brad Selwood can surround him with the kind of players that will allow his superior talent to flourish.

The pressure's on: Oshawa is in the process of building a new arena that will replace the Civic Auditorium.

Selwood coached the Knights briefly in the 1996-97 season. The Knights were 13-51-2 that year and went through three coaches: Selwood, Tom Barrett, Paul McIntosh.

"We really wanted to watch John's ice time this year," head coach Randy Ladoucer said, "but because of our lack of depth at forward, it's been necessary to play him a lot and he seems to thrive the more ice time he gets.

"I can see a time when he's a real leader on this team. Right now in this league, there's a pecking order where the older guys take charge of the room, but John will."

Tavares, who started the game with linemates Cal Clutterbuck and Nathaniel Brooks, is in a battle for OHL rookie scoring honours with London forward Sergei Kostitsyn, who is 3 1/2 years his elder, and Knight A.J. Perry, technically a rookie despite playing for the Knights last season.

Kostitsyn scored twice last night and the 18-year-old Perry, whose family went to Detroit yesterday to watch big brother Corey of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks play against the Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena, scored a gorgeous second-period goal, his seventh of the season.

"I played 26 games, including playoffs, last year and you have to play 34 to lose your rookie status," Perry said. "We're all watching it a little bit to see who's leading the rookie scoring race. I've been fortunate to get the chance to play with some of the better players this year and right now, I'm playing on a line with Sergei and we really seem to know where we are out there and have good chemistry."

Perry admitted he would've liked to see Corey play in Detroit, "but there will be other opportunities," he said.

KNIGHTS 8

GENERALS 2

GAME GLANCE

Knights 8, Generals 2

London goals: Sergei Kostitsyn (2), Robbie Drummond, Rob Schremp, A.J. Perry, David Bolland, Trevor Kell, Jamie VanderVeeken

Oshawa goals: Adam Berti, John Tavares

Next: London travels to Windsor on Thursday to face the Spitfires and returns Friday to the JLC to take on the Plymouth Whalers.


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