Flurry buries Knights

London Knights coach Dale Hunter paces behind players during the third period of their 8-3 loss to...

London Knights coach Dale Hunter paces behind players during the third period of their 8-3 loss to the Kitchener Rangers Monday night at the John Labatt Centre. (DEREK RUTTAN, The London Free Press)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:51 AM ET

This is how the surfer feels when the tidal wave looms.

Or the Olympic downhiller, so close to the bottom in record time, when a ski catches an icy patch.

In six minutes and 13 seconds, the London Knights' mad dash to a dream Game 7 win careened off course into a nightmare 8-3 loss at the soft hands of the remarkably resilient Kitchener Rangers before 9,090 Monday Knight at the John Labatt Centre.

A 1-0 lead zapped by five straight goals early in the second period.

A power play chance to dig the Rangers deep instead signalled the initial step into a hockey quicksand too deep to escape.

"All we were trying to do there was stay positive," London star forward Nazem Kadri said. "It was tough. We got off to a good start but it burned out quickly on us."

Two short-handed, a power-play goal, an even-strength tally and then the crusher, a breakaway by Jeremy Morin, whose sweet deke chased London goalie Michael Hutchinson from the crease.

That flurry forced London head coach Dale Hunter to burn his timeout early and make his fourth goaltending change in the last four games.

"We knew we were in trouble," defenceman Steve Tarasuk said. "It happened in a hurry. All you're trying to do is fight back, score another goal and get back in it."

There are no gimmes in Game 7. No rewind buttons.

And now, no London rematch with Windsor in the Western Conference final. No more five-overtime fun.

"And I really thought we could've done well against Windsor," Tarasuk said. "They've been sitting cold for a while and we were playing. I think Kitch will give them a good series.

"We're going to have to take a few weeks and think about this for a while."

It won't be fond memories.

The seven games produces 75 goals. The Knights didn't want to play that way.

"If you could sum up this series," Tarasuk said, "it was run-and-gun."

The Knights didn't pack the right ammo. Not against the Rangers, who scored eight goals three times in this series.

"It came down to goaltending," Kitchener head coach Steve Spott said, "and in this game, ours was better than theirs."

Embattled Brandon Maxwell, never yanked in the series, beat Hutchinson in the contest that counted most. The son avenged the father -- his dad Brad is an assistant coach with London's first-round victim Guelph.

Spott gave Maxwell a big hug after the game. Since his Plymouth days with Peter DeBoer, he has long been a rival of the Hunters.

"It means a lot to beat Dale Hunter," he said. "London is a standard (in this league)."

He also clung on to Kadri, his old pal and student, in the post-game handshakes.

"I'm president of the Nazem Kadri fan club," Spott said. "His parents (Sam and Sue) are the classiest people you can meet. And I'm a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan, to boot."

Kadri has that ahead of him.

But this hurts. He lost to the team he loved first.

This was a big series for Kadri, Tarasuk and injured Phil Varone, the pieces of the Steve Mason deal that haunts the Rangers no more.

Kitchener was the first team to beat London twice in the JLC this year. They did it back-to-back under the most extreme circumstances.

"It seems like it wasn't that long ago I was a 15-year-old going to my first camp with the Rangers," said Kadri, the OHL playoff scoring leader who Kitchener captain Dan Kelly turned quiet in the final three games. "It happens fast."

Tarasuk was London's last over-ager standing.

Leigh Salters couldn't answer the bell after knocking his head on the thunderous hit on Rangers star Jeff Skinner in Game 6.

London captain Justin Taylor was kicked out in the second period for a slew foot on Kelly.

That, strangely enough, was the Knights' shining moment in that fateful 20 minutes. They killed off the major penalty and got a standing ovation.

But the Knights' power play, a concern all season, did them in.

Colin Martin, who shared the point duties with Kadri when the PP was humming, strained his hip and groin and couldn't play the final two games.

The Rangers made them pay with the two short-handed goals.

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Game glance

Rangers 8, Knights 3

Kitchener wins best-of-seven OHL Western Conference semifinal 4-3

Kitchener goals: Jeremy Morin (3), Gabriel Landeskog, Julian Cimadamore, Jason Akeson, John Moore, Dan Kelly

London goals: Chris DeSousa, Seth Griffith, Daniel Erlich

E-mail ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca or follow Ryanpyette on Twitter.


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