Tavares sets OHL mark

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

WINDSOR -- His first one tied him with Peter Lee as the OHL's goal-scoring king.

He passed the 1970s Ottawa 67's star on his second one.

And his third?

All John Tavares did was bury the dramatic winner with 1:55 left in the third period to give his London Knights their first win over the league champion Windsor Spitfires this season, 4-3 before 6,590 yesterday at the WFCU Centre.

Big players come up with their best moments in the most important situations.

"The second one meant a lot because it put us ahead and, obviously, it was the one that broke the record," said the 18-year-old Oakville native and projected first overall pick in this year's NHL draft. "And then they came back again and scored (Adam Henrique just 22 seconds later). So we needed another one and the next one put us ahead again.

"The record is nice but that's a big win for us to give us some more confidence going into the playoffs."

Tavares' second goal, with seven minutes left in the third period, made history by topping Lee's 33-year-old mark of 213 career goals. The third goal ended the Spitfires chance to knock a former Knights team out of the record book.

Windsor had been chasing the 2004-05 London Knights' OHL team mark of 59 wins and 120 points. The Spitfires needed victories in their final four games to get to 60 wins and 121 points.

After Tavares' heroics, the best the Spits can do is tie those Memorial Cup champion Knights with 59 wins and finish one point behind.

"He's a special player and that's what special players do -- they rise up," London head coach Dale Hunter said. "Records are meant to be broken but I guess it (his '04-05 Knights) won't be broken this year."

How many players have the composure after setting such a historic individual record to score in tight and up high the way Tavares did on the winner?

"Not many," said Dale Hunter, who has played with and against a lot of great players. "He came up big."

Leigh Salters, acquired from Guelph a few days after the blockbuster deal with Oshawa, drew the only assist on Tavares' 214th career goal. His famous teammate still manages to shock and awe him.

"Not today, but there was a goal a couple of weeks ago he scored where he was on the goal-line and still put it in and my jaw just dropped," Salters said. "When you're out there with Johnny, all you do is try to get him the puck. It's a great moment and I'll always remember it.

"It's great to be a part of history but I had nothing to do with it. It was all John. He's an exceptional player."

After Tavares' second goal, the London bench cleared and went into the Windsor end to congratulate him.

"Because it's a big record, we got approval from the league to go out like that," Dale Hunter said.

Tavares' third goal sunk Windsor for just the third time on home ice in its sensational season. The red-hot Knights have won seven in a row.

"He's an elite player," Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner said. "The puck just follows him."

Peter Lee, a successful GM for top club Eisbaeren in the German Bundesliga, met Tavares last year at the world hockey championship and discussed with him the possibility of breaking the record. He said this week he plans to contact the young sniper and congratulate him.

That record is at 215 and counting. The Knights have two games left -- Friday at home against Saginaw and Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie -- and Tavares has expressed an interest in playing at least one of those games to help him prepare for playoffs.

But yesterday, it was hard not to think about the task just accomplished. The second-place Knights needed to beat the Spits to gain their attention.

"We could be a little more disciplined and we had to kill off a lot of penalties at the start of the game," Tavares said. "But (goalie Trevor Cann) stood on his head for us. As a team, this was an important win."

Tavares scored less than five minutes into the game. Justin Taylor added a power-play marker before the end of the period for a 2-0 lead.

Windsor also ran into early penalty trouble. Star defenceman Ryan Ellis went low to up-end London tough guy Mike Yovanic, then Spitfire Adam Wallace got kicked out for trying to fight London's prone six-foot-seven forward.

Yovanic didn't return to the game and needed stitches. Dale Hunter didn't know if the Ellis hit was dirty but he thought the play had been offside and should've been whistled dead.

London's Dominic DeSando and Windsor's Ben Dubois also fought during the same stoppage and were ejected with game misconducts. When the dust settled, London had a two-man advantage for two minutes and a five-minute power play.

The Knights didn't score but possessed the puck in Windsor's end for a long chunk of time and didn't allow the Spitfires to get early momentum.

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Game glance

Knights 4, Spitfires 3

London goals: John Tavares (3), Justin Taylor

Windsor goals: Ryan Ellis, Eric Wellwood, Adam Henrique

Next: The Knights finish the regular season with games against Saginaw at home on Friday and in Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday.


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