Knights face elimination

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

The London Knights are down to their last gasp.

The defending Ontario Hockey League and Memorial Cup champions will have to beat the powerful Peterborough Petes four straight games to keep their dream of a second straight league title alive after falling in a 3-2 last-minute shocker to the Petes before 9,090 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

Peterborough forward Jordan Morrison scored his second goal with 29.6 seconds left in the third period for the winner to give the Petes a 3-0 series lead in the best-of-seven OHL final. They can wrap it tomorrow on home ice, where they're 9-0 this spring.

"That's not the end of us," said London goalie Adam Dennis, a surprise starter who ignored a "lower-body injury" to kick aside 34 Petes shots. "We have too much character in this room. This isn't over yet. They're going to have to beat us one more time."

Morrison's goal came on a nifty give-and-go feed from Petes pest Steve Downie, who was booed every time he touched the puck because London fans thought he should have been suspended for a spear on Knights defenceman Ryan Martinelli in Game 2.

"I like that stuff -- it makes me play harder," the Philadelphia Flyers first-rounder said with a grin. "I thought about shooting, but just made the pass and Jordan put it in. The Knights are a good team and we have to hand it to our goalie (David Shantz). He kept us in it."

London didn't lose in overtime as it did in the first two games, but Morrison's goal might as well have been considering its sudden-death impact. The Knights tied it late and gave their fans an energy jolt with a stunning blast by little-used rookie defenceman Andrew Wilkins, who scored his first career playoff goal -- and second as Knight -- on his second shift of the game with exactly five minutes left in the third period.

"The coaches told me at the (second) intermission to keep my legs moving and be ready," the 17-year-old Pickering native said. "It was a little bit of luck that I got the goal. It's a tough loss, but we're going to keep working. It comes down to a bounce and we're not getting them right now."

London kept the Petes guessing on a starting goalie before deciding on Dennis, who is still day-to-day and a question mark for Game 4.

"I went to the doctor and got good news (yesterday morning)," Dennis said. "We'll see how it goes and hopefully, I'll be in (tomorrow)."

Peterborough didn't flinch after Wilkins's game-tying tally and Morrison felt the Petes are full measure for their three-game lead.

"We just put our work boots on and kept looking for the winning goal," the 19-year-old Uxbridge native said. "We're not that surprised to be up 3-0. We have a good team and we knew we could play with them. We played two good games against them (in the regular season). We beat them last year and we should've beaten them twice."

To extend the series beyond the minimum four games, London will have to win at the arena Knights head coach Dale Hunter likes to call "SpongeBob SquareCorners" -- the Peterborough Memorial Centre.

Before the game, the OHL brass explained why it didn't take disciplinary action against Downie for the perceived Game 2 spear.

"We saw it happen and took another look and (a suspension) wasn't warranted," OHL referee-in-chief Ted Baker said yesterday. "It could've been a two-minute minor (for an infraction other than spearing, which has to be a double-minor or a major penalty) but the referee didn't end up making a call."

London didn't receive a fine for Dennis and teammate Rob Schremp speaking out about the officiating after Game 2 and in the lead-up to Game 3. The Knights also escaped punishment for head coach Dale Hunter's dismissive gestures to the referees during the Sportsnet-televised tilt.

Last night, London defenceman David Halasz, who was pushed from behind into Mason by Petes captain Jamie Tardif on Sunday's controversial overtime winner, opened the scoring with his first goal as a Knight on a point blast in the first period.

But Peterborough got a short-handed goal by Daniel Ryder and a power-play tally from Morrison in the second period for the 2-1 lead.

London veteran Trevor Kell was told an hour-and-a-half before the game that he would be dropping back to defence again after his blue-line stint in Game 2. "It's just to try something a little bit different against them."

GAME GLANCE

Petes 3, Knights 2

Peterborough leads best-of-seven OHL final 3-0

Peterborough goals: Daniel Ryder, Jordan Morrison (2), including the game winner with 29.6 seconds left in the third period

London goals: David Halasz, Andrew Wilkins

Next: Game 4 is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.


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