Nazem Kadri tried to savour this goal.
He really wanted to appreciate it.
"I had the best view possible," he said of his overtime winner that sneaked past Windsor goalie Philipp Grubauer for a 4-3 London Knights victory before 9,090 Friday night at the John Labatt Centre. "It rolled up his leg and sat right in behind him. I haven't had too many OT winners in my career so this was definitely pretty nice."
Late in the third period during a furious back-and-forth offensive show, the Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder leaned in to Justin Taylor after the Knights captain's potential winning tally was cancelled out in 14 seconds by Spitfires forward Justin Shugg.
"I told him it's too bad we couldn't enjoy our goal because they scored so soon," Kadri said. "Windsor had our number all year. It doesn't matter who they were missing (Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis and Greg Nemisz). They're still a well-rounded team and it meant something to beat them."
It means the Knights' unlikely drive for 50 wins is still alive.
It means they had a whopping 30 wins on home ice this season.
It means the Knights have won their first and last meetings with the defending Memorial Cup champions. Those four defeats in between don't sting as bad.
And it means Kadri, who along with Steve Tarasuk will not make the final regular season bus ride to Erie Saturday, has turned into what the Knights hoped he'd be.
"We're a team with one star and a bunch of guys who work hard," London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "Naz is a clutch player. I thought his first 25 minutes he was pretty average, and then after that he took over."
It's what the best players do. They find a way against the better teams with the game on the line.
And because of his play, the Knights didn't get discouraged after Windsor tied it up.
They didn't sink after Zack Kassian hammered Pieter Schinkelshoek with a ground-shaking hit.
"They're resilient," Beaulieu said, "and that's what they've done all year. They've been very good here at home (just four losses)."
Not many teammates understand Kadri's vast offensive potential the way Daniel Erlich does.
"We were a line (with Phil Varone) last year in the playoffs and it worked out well," Erlich said. "Naz's first goal (of two), if he doesn't make a play to get open like he did, that doesn't happen and there's nothing there. I've really learned a lot this year from just watching him play."
There's no question the Knights beat the champs while they were undermanned.
Windsor head coach Bob Boughner gave Hall the option to play but he chose rest for the playoffs over a possible OHL scoring crown.
"That shows you the kind of team-oriented guy he is," said Ryan Ellis, who rode the bus but didn't play either. "He'd rather win in the playoffs than win the scoring title. It isn't as important to him. We clinched (the Western Conference title Thursday) against Plymouth and got 50 wins. That's what really mattered to him."
Scott Timmins scored the game's opening goal to give the loaded Spits a team-record six 30-goal scorers.
The Knights have three -- Jared Knight, Kadri and Taylor -- and they accounted for all four London goals.
"We know if Nazem Kadri doesn't play like he can, we're not going to win," hard-working Knight Garett Hunter said. "He's one of the guys we need to have going. But we also know it just can't be him. We learned early on that doesn't work, either.
The Knights continually say no one has very high expectations for their team.
But Kadri has his dreams.
If he doesn't see Windsor again in a few weeks, he's going to be bitterly disappointed.
--- --- ---
Knights 4, Spitfires 3
London goals: Nazem Kadri (2), Jared Knight, Justin Taylor
Windsor goals: Scott Timmins, Adam Henrique, Justin Shugg
Next: The Knights close out the regular season Saturday in Erie. Game time is 7 p.m.