'Twas a good Knight for London

Knights forward Stephen Sanza watches Rangers defenceman Dan Kelly lunge across the crease to make...

Knights forward Stephen Sanza watches Rangers defenceman Dan Kelly lunge across the crease to make a save to prevent London's Jared Knight from scoring on a wide-open net during a first-period power play at the John Labatt Centre Thursday night. (QMI Agency/Derek Ruttan)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Nazem Kadri called it body-on-leg.

The Kitchener Rangers saw it differently.

It looked to them like a knee, at least leg-on-leg.

But there's no question what happened after the London Knights star nailed Matt Tipoff in the third period.

The puck came loose and London's Jared Knight drilled home the winning goal in a 3-2 victory before 8,965 Thursday night at the John Labatt Centre.

It made all the difference in another tight game.

In this tug-of-war for second seed in the OHL's Western Conference, the Knights stand four points up with a game in hand on the Rangers.

"I saw he had his head down," Kadri said. "I tried to hit him clean and hard. It wasn't dirty. He tried to move out of the way and I got him somewhere with my body."

Tipoff didn't know how he got hit. But he was hurt.

Kitchener's Jeremy Morin cross-checked Kadri on his way to celebrate the goal. Rangers captain Dan Kelly argued in vain for a penalty.

"I ran into another Ranger on the way," Kadri said. "That's part of it."

Ex-Knight Chris MacKinnon, who later stripped Kadri for a short-handed goal to make it close, saw the hit.

"It was interference, tripping, something," MacKinnon said. "Something should've been called. They scored the winning goal off it. It's unfortunate. But what are you going to do? It happens. The refs are humans, too. They make mistakes."

Kelly knows Kadri well. They're friends and former teammates.

Last year against the Knights, the big defenceman's job was to shut down John Tavares. Now it's Kadri.

"Naz isn't a dirty player but he does bring a physical side to his game (he belted tiny Michael Catenacci with an open-icer earlier)," Kelly said.

"My job was to shut down Naz and he didn't score a goal. He can beat you on the rush. He has that toe drag.

"John would dart in and out of holes. They were different."

The Kadri hit wouldn't have been so huge if Michael Hutchinson didn't make two big saves in the final 20 seconds off Morin and MacKinnon.

Last time he was at home, big Hutch was jeered after Erie's stunning five-goal third period comeback.

The Otters, incidentally, return to London tonight.

"Goalies aren't going to play their best every game," Kadri said. "But he (Hutchinson) was huge for us down the stretch. If we're going to go far this year, he's going to have to be big for us.

"And I thought we hung in there. We went after Kitch, hit (four posts) and were down 1-0 early. We haven't had the best starts lately. (Brandon) Maxwell was lucky."

Leigh Salters was relentless.

He doesn't have his Wrecking Crew mates anymore.

But after the job he, Garett Hunter and Stephen Sanza did on MacKinnon, Morin and Jeff Skinner, maybe the Checking Crew has been born.

"Something like that," big Salters said. "We did a good job against their top line. I hadn't played a lot with those guys but we tried to get the body on them any time we could and sticks on pucks.

"They log big minutes and it worked out pretty well."

They shut down one of the better lines in the league. That bodes well for future matchups.

"They have last chance here," MacKinnon said. "It's always hard to play against a line that thinks just about defence and nothing else. When you play against a top-scoring line, you can sometimes catch them cheating."

But that didn't happen.

London has beaten Kitchener three of four games now. A rematch is next week.

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Game glance

Knights 3, Rangers 2

London goals: Michael MacDonald, Chris DeSousa, Jared Knight

Kitchener goals: Jason Akeson, Chris MacKinnon

Next: The Knights take on Erie tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the JLC.


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