By Carl Chimenti
George Diaco scored the tying goal in the third period and then scored the only goal in the shoot-out as the London Knights (40-14-1-0) beat the Sarnia Sting (29-17-5-3) 4-3 before a large crowd Friday night at the Budweiser Gardens.
Sarnia gained a valuable point and coupled with a Saginaw loss tonight, now lead the Spirit by three points in the battle for third place in the Western Conference. The two teams will tangle on Saturday night in Saginaw, in a game that has huge OHL playoff seeding implications.
Nolan Burke (Nashville Predators) had two goals tonight for the Sting and Christian Kyrou (Dallas Stars) had a pair of assists to lead the offensive attack. The two goals extended Burke’s point streak to five games (7-3-10) and he has points in ten of his last eleven games (10-6-16) as well. Kyrou has also been on a heater with points in five of his last six games (3-4-7). Sandis Vilmanis (Florida Panthers) scored his second goal and third point in his last two games.
Eathan Ritchie and Sasha Pastujov (Anaheim Ducks) had an assist each. Pastujov has two goals and six points in his last five games.
Ben Gaudreau (San Jose Sharks) played an outstanding game and deserved a better fate tonight as he stopped 37 of 40 shots including all 21 second period shots. Overall London out-shot Sarnia 40-33 but the Sting out-shot London 8-4 in the third period and 5-0 in the overtime session.
On the power-play Sarnia went 1 for 1 while London was 1/3. The Knights lone power-play goal snaped a Sting streak that saw them kill off 13 straight opportunities with the man-advantage at the Budweiser Gardens in London.
The first period saw both teams come out of the gate at a furious rate that continued through-out the entire period. London was able to find pay dirt first despite Gaudreau who stopped numerous great scoring chances for the Knights. Ryan Humphrey broke the scoreless tie at 11:50 with William Nicholl and Mathieu Paris setting up the goal. Minutes later Sarnia went on the power-play, the only man-advantage for either team and the Sting capitalized with a three-way passing play that started at the blue-line in the London end. Ritchie cross-feed a pass to Kyrou and he found Vilmanis alone with a pass in front and Vilmanis scored into a gapping open net for his 14th of the year at 17:03. London scored a late goal in the final seconds to finish off the period in front 2-1 on a goal from Ruslan Gazizov at 19:42. Sean McGurn and Jackson Edward (Boston Bruins) assisted on the go-ahead goal. London dominated on the shot clock 15-7.
Gaudreau continued his fine goaltending as he blanked London in the second period stopping all 21 shots he faced. Meanwhile the Sting scored twice and went to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead after forty minutes. Burke scored both goals his 37th and 38th on the year. The first goal came at 4:34 on a give and go with Kyrou and Burke put the finishing touch as he caught Brochu going the other way and beat him on the far side. The second goal started off the face-off as Pastujov controlled the puck and put a shot on goal which Brochu stopped, but Burke was there for the rebound and he roofed the puck over Brochu and into the net at 7:17. The Knights out-shot the Sting once again 21-13.
The Knights swept the three star selections with Brochu (3rd), Diaco (2nd) and Gazizov the first star