Knights send a message

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

KITCHENER -- Phil McRae was being watched.

USA Hockey had eyes on site looking at potential world junior tournament talent.

But that, the London Knights forward said, wasn't the motivation for a beauty breakaway goal and three points in a 5-2 win over the Kitchener Rangers before 6,105 last night at the Memorial Auditorium.

This was more about team redemption.

About grabbing hold of first place -- they're tied atop the Midwest Division with the Rangers -- and not letting go.

"We had to prove we could beat that team in this rink," McRae said. "They're a good team and I thought we did a good job against them.

"We did what we had to do. We played a good road game."

It was night and day from their 6-4 loss here 11 days ago.

The Knights blocked a ton of shots.

They got pucks deep and controlled possession.

"We had some timely scoring and our best guys were better than their best guys," London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "I thought we were going to see the best of Kitchener. They had lost in Ottawa and it's never easy to come in here on a Tuesday night and win."

They didn't take stupid penalties.

Sure, the emotional opportunities were there.

Kitchener's top scorer Chris MacKinnon, a one-time Knight, bench-checked Zac Rinaldo and the momentum of the hit dislodged a pane of glass.

Rinaldo usually dishes those hits out.

The Knights didn't batter MacKinnon.

They barely batted an eye.

"We were up (3-0) and they have the No. 3 power play in the league," McRae said. "We didn't want to start anything to let them back in it. You know Zac, he'll get him back with a good hit another time."

"There's a time and place," Beaulieu added. "That wasn't the time. Maybe if we were down 3-0 but certainly not when we're up 3-0 in the second period."

They were up in the second period because of guys like defenceman Kalle Ekelund, who outplayed fellow Swedes Patrik Andersson and Gabriel Landeskog.

"A good game," said Ekelund, who had a goal and assist in a rare offensive flash. "We tried not to take penalties against them. It worked well."

The combination of Kadri and McRae is becoming one of the league's best.

Kadri scored a back-breaker in the second that was as sweet as the shorthanded individual effort he pulled off late against the Russians in the Subway Super Series Monday in Windsor.

"We just started playing together this weekend and we're trying to get a feel for how we play out there," McRae said. "We've complemented each other well so far."

Their third amigo -- Jared Knight -- sat out and watched from the stands. He hasn't been feeling well lately and went to get medical tests.

Veterans Leigh Salters (suspended), Dominic DeSando and Phil Varone didn't dress, either.

But rookie goalie Michael Houser showed veteran poise. He outplayed Kitchener goalie Brandon Maxwell, the star puckstopper for the United States national development program.

He went to the U.S. world junior summer evaluation camp and is a candidate for a spot in Saskatchewan.

Maybe Houser should get some consideration, too. He shook off the rust of not playing in a week-and-a-half and held the fort.

"The world junior team is a goal of mine in the future," Houser said, "and I know Brandon will be one of the guys I'll have to compete with to get there.

"It's nice to play against some of the best goalies in the league. That's what you want."

It's always a big test. That's what Kitchener always provides for London, a team that didn't know which way it was heading.

Now it does: the quest for the Midwest title is alive and well.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

GAME GLANCE

Knights 5, Rangers 2

London goals: Nazem Kadri (2), Kalle Ekelund, Phil McRae, Justin Taylor

Kitchener goals: Jeremy Morin, Jeff Skinner

Next: The Knights face the Sarnia Sting on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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