Kostitsyn a one-man wrecking crew

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

With just two assists, Sergei Kostitsyn didn't do too much damage in his first two post-season games.

The London Knight forward simply saved his stick of dynamite for a Game 3 kaboom on Owen Sound.

The wily Belarussian resembled a one-man wrecking crew in scoring his first three playoff goals, adding an assist, ferociously killing penalties and putting the Knights one win from sweeping their OHL Western conference quarter-final series with a 6-3 victory over the Attack before 9,090 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

"I'll pass. I don't care who scores -- if it's me or Sam, whoever as long as we win," said the 20-year-old Kostitsyn, a Montreal Canadiens prospect who was a playoff hero last season with 13 goals and 37 points during the Knights' run to the OHL final.

"I kill penalties. I play 30 minutes a game and it's no problem. I feel great."

In the process, Kostitsyn smashed Owen Sound's comeback dreams, pushed them to the edge of elimination and did everything short of letting the air out of of the Attack's team bus for the long ride back home. Tied 3-3 in a third period Owen Sound desperately needed, Adam Perry and Kostitsyn scored 49 seconds apart on the first two shifts of the third period and the Attack had little response.

"They jump on our mistakes -- they're an offensive team and they make you pay (more than most teams)," Owen Sound forward Scott Tregunna said.

"The other night," Tregunna continued, "it seemed like we only made two mistakes and they capitalized on both of them. But we know it takes four games to win a series and they haven't won anything yet."

Once again, Owen Sound outshot London 51-32. They even held the Knights scoreless on three power-play opportunities. But the Attack have not found the magic formula to make the numbers work in a winning way.

"We knew what we had to do and we definitely didn't want to go into overtime," Adam Perry said. "(On his goal) Justin Taylor and David Meckler did the work and got me the puck and I just shot. Sergei was Sergei. He does a lot for our team and that doesn't change whether or not he gets a goal."

Kostitsyn displayed every aspect of his offensive game on his hat trick. He undressed two defenders on his first goal, bounced his second off Bob Sanguinetti's skate trying to pass to Pat Kane and converted a gorgeous breakaway pass from Scott Aarssen for some third-period insurance.

"Sergei answered the call and stepped up because he's one of our big-time players and that's what he does," London assistant coach Todd Bidner said. "He takes his big butt and protects the puck and it's tough to take it from him. He does everything for us. He's blocking shots, killing penalties."

How much trouble does Owen Sound face? These Knights posted the best road record in OHL history at 29-5.

"You have to respect their speed," Owen Sound defenceman David Kolomatis said. "They know how to make the most of their chances. We can't do anything but try to win on home ice. You can't reflect on the last three games. You have to move ahead."

London's Dale Hunter will resume coaching duties with a three-game lead delivered by acting boss Dave Gagner. Hunter had been suspended five games for failing to control his players during a March 8 game against Kitchener.

In his absence, Gagner's approach looked a lot like Hunter hockey.

"The kids have been doing the same thing for most of the year so there's no sense in throwing anything different at them now," he said. "We're playing the same style and I didn't see any reason to veer away from that."

Owen Sound scored the game's first two goals in the first nine minutes by accomplishing a couple of things they hadn't done much of in this series -- standing in the slot and banging home loose pucks.

Though many worried that playing Kostitsyn 30 minutes a game and the lack of depth on defence would lead to London's undoing in a lengthy series, the Knights have looked far from exhausted through the first three games.

Part of the reason for that has been London's use of a trap-style defensive system that requires little forechecking. It's a system the Knights have employed much of the past two months and is reminiscent of their setup last season when they tried to keep the legs of Rob Schremp and David Bolland fresh.

"When you're forechecking hard all night, see how much legs you have left in the third period," Gagner said. "It's just an easier way to play the game. It's two philosophies (in this series with Owen Sound's hard-charging style). There's a lot of ways to play hockey. I don't know if ours is different than everyone else's but it's an easier system and we've been doing it for most of the year."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 6, Attack 3

(London leads best-of-seven Western conference quarter-final 3-0)

London goals: Sergei Kostitsyn (3), Pat Kane, Adam Perry, David Meckler

Owen Sound goals: Wayne Simmonds, Scott Tregunna (2)

Next: Game 4 goes tomorrow night, 7 p.m. at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre in Owen Sound.


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