London Knights beat Flint Firebirds in final regular season home game
Hockey playoffs often turn into battles of attrition.
Depth is one of the most important ingredients a team can have.
The London Knights showed off their depth in a 7-3 victory over the Flint Firebirds in London’s final regular season home game on Friday night.
Eleven of the Knights’ 18 skaters recorded a least one point in the game and London’s so-called fourth line of Alex Formenton, Liam Foudy and Adrian Carbonara was responsible for three of the seven goals and a combined six points.
The teams traded goals early as Formenton found a puck in front after it hit a leg and fired it high past Connor Hicks for a 1-0 London lead. But Flint took that one back before the midway mark of the opening period.
The puck came back to Fedor Gordeev off a faceoff in the Knights’ end and he swatted a floater of a slap shot at the London net and it found a top corner behind Tyler Parsons.
Parsons faced 14 shots from the Firebirds in the first period. The Calgary Flames prospect made his biggest save off Hakon Nilsen, who stepped up to create a 3-on-1 and fired a puck at the top corner, only to have Parsons snap it out of the air with his glove.
Max Jones scored to put the Knights ahead at 16:02 of the first period. Cliff Pu fed the puck out of the right corner and Jones snapped it high under the crossbar giving London a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes.
Flint fought back to tie the game a second time just over a minute into the middle period as Everett Clark scored for the Firebirds.
After that, the Knights began to take a hold of the game. Janne Kuokkanen kept a puck in at the blue line twice on Firebird clearing attempts and on the second one, deked his way into the slot and wristed a puck over the glove of Hicks to put London in front 3-2.
London continued to grind away below the faceoff dots on the Flint defencemen as the game wore on and the line of Formenton, Foudy and Carbonara was a big part of that and produced back-to-back goals less than five minutes apart. The puck was sent back to Evan Bouchard after some mucking in the corner and he slapped a pass to Foudy in the slot and the Knights’ first round pick in 2016 deflected the puck into the Flint net.
On their very next shift, Foudy and Carbonara went to work again in the right corner and kept the puck going back and forth along the boards until Carbonara spotted an opening and pushed his way through to the front of the net where he backhanded a shot home for his twelfth goal of the year and a 5-2 Knights’ advantage.
Max Jones wowed the Budweiser Gardens crowd 3:12 into the third period as he became tied up in front, looked behind him and spotted the puck.
Jones stuck his stick between his legs and flicked a shot into the Firebirds’ net for a goal that will live forever on highlight reels. As much as the crowd cheered when the puck hit the back of the net, the reaction to the replay on the Jumbotron might have been even bigger.
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Dante Salituro added his second goal in three games to put London ahead 7-2 and Flint captain Alex Peters ended the scoring.
Both teams recorded 40 shots on net.
The Knights finished their home schedule with a record of 25-5-1-3.
The Erie Otters beat Kitchener in overtime, making it impossible for London to catch them for first overall. That leaves the Knights in a race with the Owen Sound Attack for the third seed. Right now both London and Owen Sound have two games remaining with the Attack ahead by a single point.
The Knights and Firebirds meet again on Saturday night in Flint before the Knights move on to Sault Ste. Marie for their final game of the regular season on Sunday afternoon.
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