When Mitch Marner was a London Knight there were times when he made it look really easy.
Marner collected 301 points in just three seasons in London, Ont.
As fans celebrated Mitch Marner bobble head night on Monday, the Knights channeled some inner Marners as they zipped, slipped and flipped passes all around the Flint Firebirds’ zone on their way to a 9-5 victory.
Ruslan Gazizov had a career-high goal and six assists and London co-captains Sean McGurn and George Diaco poured in points as well. McGurn recorded a hat trick and added three assists. Diaco had a goal and three assists and threw in a fight for a Gordie Howe Hat Trick to boot.
Gazizov, McGurn and Diaco each had a goal and two assists in the first 20 minutes. Landon Sim had the other London goal.
Detroit Red Wings prospect Amadeus Lombardi got Flint on the scoreboard with just under two and a half minutes remaining to cut into the Knights lead.
The Firebirds cut the lead in half 1:31 into the second period on a Lombardi shot from the slot that went off the end boards, off Gavin Hayes and into the London net.
The score stayed that way until the final minute and seven seconds of the middle frame when Ryan Winterton found Oliver Bonk in the slot and Bonk buried his 10th goal of the season. The goal came on the anniversary of Bonk’s dad Radek becoming the first Ottawa Senator to play in 600 games in the NHL.
With just 18.5 seconds to go in the second period, Jackson Edward wristed a puck from the left point that beat Will Cranley and gave the Knights their four-goal lead back. The goal also gave Gazizov his third assist of the game.
Gazizov added two more helpers to open the third period and extended London’s lead to 8-2 as he set up McGurn and Jacob Julien.
Dmitry Kuzmin and Tristan Bertucci scored goals exactly one minute apart to bring Flint to within four goals.
Simon Slavicek added a late goal just after a Firebirds power play and then McGurn completed his hat trick into an empty net with just over two minutes left in the game.
Zach Bowen replaced Brett Brochu to begin the third period. Brochu grabbed at the back of his leg after stretching for a second period save at the side of the London net. Brochu completed the period but was given a rest over the final 20 minutes.
Neither team scored a power play goal. The Firebirds were 0-for-3 and the Knights were 0-for-2.
Flint outshot London 46-42.
The Knights have won five consecutive games and sit one point back of Windsor for first place in the Western Conference. London has one game in hand on the Spitfires.
Mitch Marner bobblehead night
The first 2000 fans inside Budweiser Gardens received a Mitch Marner bobblehead. Marner participated at the 2023 NHL All-Star game and had six assists to help the Atlantic Division win the 3-on-3 tournament.
Marner also went 1-on-1 with Roberto Luongo in the breakaway contest as part of the skills competition. The former Knight is on pace to top 30 goals in a season for the second time and 90 points for the third time in his six-year National Hockey League career.
Marner led the Knights to the 2016 Memorial Cup championship. He was named Memorial Cup MVP that year.
Horvat set to spend some time on the Island
Rodney, Ont., native and former Knight Bo Horvat has signed long-term with the New York Islanders. The contract was announced on Sunday afternoon and has an average annual value of $8.5 million over eight years.
New York acquired Hirvat from the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 31 in exchange for forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty and a conditional first-round pick in 2023. Horvat won back-to-back OHL championships with London in 2012 and 2013. He scored one of the most famous goals in Knights history by netting the 2013 championship clinching goal with 0.1 seconds remaining in Game 7 of the OHL finals.
Horvat made his Islanders debut on Feb. 6, 2023 in a 2-1 New York victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
London will honour the late Dan Maloney along with Rick Green and Dennis Wideman on Wednesday, Feb. 8 as all three are inducted into the Don Brankley London Knights Hall of Fame.
Following the afternoon induction ceremony the Knights will host the Kitchener Rangers.
Kitchener is coming off a 5-2 loss to the Guelph Storm and currently sits in 8th place in Western Conference.
Coverage will begin at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.