The London Knights opened the 2019 playoffs with a 4-3 win over the visiting Windsor Spitfires on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.
The game looked a lot closer on the scoreboard as the final horn sounded than it felt through 59 minutes and 24 seconds as the Spitfires popped two goals 6.6 seconds apart in the final 36 seconds of the game.
Evan Bouchard helped to kill off the final seconds to complete a solid start to his post-season. He scored twice and added two assists as the Knights captain factored in on all of London’s scoring.
Alex Formenton added a goal and two assists for the Knights. Dating back to last season’s playoffs, the Senators prospect now has six goals and four assists in his last five post-season games.
London managed to stifle and smother Windsor through much of the first 50 minutes. They held the Spitfires to three shots in the opening period, seven shots in the second and just one through nearly 10 minutes of the third. From there, Windsor gave a late-game push with 15 shots at Jordan Kooy and the two late goals.
The Spitfires ended up outshooting the Knights 26-25.
London was perfect on the power play, going two-for-two.
The teams are meeting in the post-season for the fifth time in the past 11 seasons and the 11th time in their franchise histories.
The Knights lead the all-time series 7-2 and the 1979 matchup went undecided after two protests resulted in a league decision to allow both teams to advance to a round-robin against Niagara Falls. Both London and Windsor were eliminated in that round-robin.
Two players who started the year in the National Hockey League accounted for the first two goals of the game.
Just 2:27 into the opening period, Formenton set up Bouchard to make it 1-0 for the Knights. Just over three minutes later, Bouchard returned the favour on a London power play as he fed a pass to Formenton, who scored from the top of the left circle to put the Knights ahead 2-0 through 20 minutes.
In the second period, Windsor managed to cut the London lead in half as Luke Boka put a puck in front of the Knights net to Will Cuylle, who scored his first career playoff goal for the Spitfires.
Before any kind of momentum change could take hold, Bouchard glided across the Windsor blue line and wristed home his second goal of the game just 1:08 later and the Knights led 3-1.
Before the end of the second period, Bouchard was at it again. On a London man advantage, he dished to Formenton and while his shot was stopped by Windsor goalie Kari Piiroinen, Alec Regula scored on the rebound and London went to the dressing room ahead 4-1.
The Spitfires gave the fans at Budweiser Gardens a bit of a scare in the final minute as Tyler Angle of the Spitfires scored on a power-play goal with 36 seconds to go and then 6.6 seconds after the faceoff at centre ice, Jean-Luc Foudy zipped into the London end and fed a pass to Connor Corcoran, who put it past Jordan Kooy to make it 4-3.
From there, London held on to seal a win in Game 1.
The other series
All eight series have started in the 2019 OHL playoffs and according to seeding, seven of the eight have gone according to plan.
The Owen Sound Attack made themselves the exception when they beat the Soo Greyhounds 4-3 in overtime on March 21 in Sault Ste. Marie. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Maksim Susko scored the winner 13:53 into OT.
Sarnia put a first-period scare into Saginaw in Game 1 of their series on the same night. Through 20 minutes, the Sting had outshot the Spirit 14-2 and had a 2-0 lead. Saginaw went into the dressing room, regrouped and came out with three goals in a span of two minutes and two seconds and carried that burst to a 6-3 victory.
Stephen Dhillon tied for the OHL lead in shutouts in the regular season with six and earned another one to start Niagara’s series with the North Bay, stopping 23 pucks in a 2-0 win for the Ice Dogs.
Sasha Chmelevski had two goals and two assists to pace the Ottawa 67’s to a 9-3 victory over Hamilton in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series.
Former Bulldog Brandon Saigeon had a goal and two assists for Oshawa in their 7-0 shutout of the Peterborough Petes. Kyle Keyser made 33 saves for the Generals.
Nolan Hutcheson had a hat trick for Sudbury as they beat Mississauga 5-2 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Guelph outlasted Kitchener 4-2 in their Game 1. The Rangers scored two third-period goals to chip into a 3-0 Storm lead, but Londoner Nick Suzuki set up Mackenzie Entwhistle for an empty-netter to put the game away for Guelph.
The Knights and Spitfires will play Game 2 at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Budweiser Gardens. Coverage will start at 1:30 on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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