Knights escape in OT

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE -- Sergei Kostitsyn doesn't like the ice at the old Sault Memorial Gardens.

You'd never know it by the way the slick London forward keeps beating up on the Soo Greyhounds. Obviously, the skates are a long way from the heart.

Two months after scoring the winner with under a minute left in a dramatic regular-season win in the Sault, the rookie from Belarus buried a big game-ending marker 4:37 into overtime to give the Knights a 6-5 comeback win before a rowdy crowd of 3,659 to take a 3-0 stranglehold in their OHL Western Conference quarter-final with the Greyhounds.

London will shoot for its third straight first-round series sweep here tomorrow and try to shut the doors for good on the old Gardens, which would be more good news for the picky Kostitsyn.

"It was a big goal," the 19-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect said. "There wasn't much room. I was trying to shoot it (across the net on Soo goalie Kyle Gajewski). I like playing against Sault Ste. Marie in London, but not here."

Kostitsyn now has two goals and nine points in three playoff games against the Soo. He had six points in four games against them during the regular season.

But he wouldn't be the hero if it wasn't for teammate Rob Schremp, who scored on two dramatic power-play blasts 1:01 apart late in the third period to erase a 5-3 deficit. On his first goal, Schremp was high-sticked under the eye by hard-working Greyhound Brandon MacLean and then made him pay with the equalizer despite some blurry vision.

"The eye puffed up pretty good, but it cleared up enough so I could see and Juice (Adam Perry) did a great job of screening their goalie on the second one," the Knights' top scorer and nominee for the OHL's most outstanding player said.

In a game they desperately had to have, the Greyhounds chased starting goalie Adam Dennis early in the third period, scored three power-play goals and shut out the Knights on their first six power plays. But they still lost to a team that pulled out a half-dozen other miracle victories this season.

"I think it's character that gets us through," London captain Dylan Hunter said. "Of course, there's panic when we're down by two and five minutes to go.

"But we found a way to get it done again. I think we rallied around (rookie Steve) Mason coming in and we knew we had to start playing better."

In his first OHL playoff appearance, Mason stopped kicked aside nine shots in relief and even assisted on Schremp's first goal before giving way to Dennis again for overtime.

"There's no pressure in that situation when you're down by two in the third period," Mason said. "I just went in and held the fort for Adam. I already went through this before in Windsor (when Dennis was pulled and the Knights nearly tied it late in a 5-4 loss Jan. 26)."

London defenceman Matt Pelech may not be available tomorrow after falling awkwardly in the first period with a leg injury. The big blue-liner never returned, but head coach Dale Hunter listed him as day-to-day and said it wasn't a series-ender. Forward Robbie Drummond dropped back to take his place.

After taking an elbowing penalty in the third period, Kris Belan was handed a gross misconduct for mouthing off and awaits further disciplinary action from the league.

Meanwhile, the gritty 'Hounds are in shock and will have to attempt a recovery after letting the late lead get away and surrendering the overtime winner. They face an 0-3 hole but they realize it's possible to come back after the Windsor Spitfires rallied back for four straight wins against them in the first round last year.

"We know it takes 60 minutes against these guys -- sometimes more," Soo captain Tyler Kennedy said. "We can't get down (tomorrow) or we're beaten before we get out there. We have to keep working and try to find a way to get a win."

"We have to play a perfect game against them to beat them," added forward Ryan Kitchen.

Despite blasting 51 shots at the London net and popping five goals, the 'Hounds know they have little margin for error against the talented Knights.

"We give them two powerplays at the end of the game and they scored on them," head coach Craig Hartsburg said. "We did a pretty good job the first two periods, but we had a letdown and that team is going to make you pay when you do that."

Kostitsyn, of course, led the charge.

"Some guys do well against certain teams -- it's just one of those things that's hard to explain," London head coach Dale Hunter said.

GAME GLANCE

Knights 6, Greyhounds 5 (OT)

The series: London leads 3-0.

London goals: Rob Schremp 2, Dabid Bolland, Dylan Hunter, Adam Perry, Sergei Kostitsyn

Soo goals: Brandon MacLean, Ryan Kitchen, Trevor Solomon, Dustin Jeffrey,Tyler Kennedy

Game 4: Tomorrow at the Sault Memorial Gardens at 7 p.m.


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