The London Knights played the Kitchener Rangers in an OHL game last night at the John Labatt Centre.
That was secondary to the big news of the day: Knights centre John Tavares won't miss much time.
Justin Taylor took over where Tavares left off, scoring three goals to lead the Knights to a 5-2 win over the Rangers before 9,038 spectators.
Taylor had a chance for another four or five. He missed two breakaways in the third period before scoring into an empty net with goalie Parker Van Buskirk pulled for a sixth attacker.
"It was a long time coming," Taylor said of his hat trick. "We had a lot of chances. Obviously it was good karma . . . I had a gapping cage. I was just thinking 'Don't miss.' "
The puck followed Taylor whenever he was on the ice. In the second period, Van Buskirk made a glove save on Taylor and took out his mouthgard.
"He said 'You aren't getting the third one when I'm in net,' " Taylor said of their exchange.
"Every chance I got he kept saying, 'Almost, almost.' "
It was a dominant offensive performance by the Knights. They outshot the Rangers 52-19 and created chance after chance.
It was the kind of performance that will boost their confidence, considering the scary events of Wednesday night that could well have unsettled the team.
Tavares injured a shoulder in the third period of the CHL/NHL top prospects game in Oshawa.
Tavares was carrying the puck behind the net when he was caught with a big hit by Peterborough's Zack Kassian.
It caused an entire city to catch its breath.
Tavares left the ice immediately, slamming his stick in frustration.
He was examined back in London yesterday morning.
"There's nothing broken and no separation," said Knights assistant general manager Jim McKellar.
Tavares has suffered a suspected bone bruise. While he didn't play last night, there is a chance he'll play tonight against the Guelph Storm. That will be a game time decision.
He was receiving treatment before last night's game and wasn't sure what to think when he first got hit Wednesday.
"My foot hurt as well initially. It got stepped on," Tavares said.
"It was the initial pain from both. I don't really remember what happened," Tavares said. "I was watching the play . . . Kassian got me behind the net. I didn't see him coming. I moved the puck in front of the net and I thought the play was over.
"I got up and skated to the bench. It didn't feel good. I felt stiffness. I felt that I probably could have tried it out but I just wanted to shut it out for precautionary reasons."
Tavares came to the Knights in a deadline deal from the Oshawa Generals and has only played one game for London. He had two goals and an assist in that one.
Kassian's check and Tavares' reaction sent a shiver of fear through everyone associated with the Knights including Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio who was watching the game on television.
Curcio didn't like the hit.
"I was obviously shocked and afraid for the outcome," Curcio said. "I was disappointed at the hit. I know these games are to showcase their skill and talent. I don't mind a good hit when there's a reason to hit. But I thought the puck was already gone. There was no reason to make that hit.
"You try and hit somebody to separate the puck from the body. You don't go out to try and hurt someone."
Knights Nazem Kadri also played in the Prospect's game. He was worried when it happened. He drove home with Tavares after the game.
"It hurt him but he had pretty good range of motion," Kadri said.
Tavares felt relieved at the diagnosis. He would like to get back as soon as possible but he isn't on the clock.
"We'll see how it feels when I wake up," Tavares said. "We'll take it one step at a time."
Knights 5, Rangers 2
London goals: Justin Taylor 3, Phil Varone, Jason Wilson
Kitchener goals: Jason Akeson, Micky Sartoretto
Next: The Knights take on the Guelph Storm tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.