When the Knights went up 3-0 last night in a dominant performance at London's Budweiser Gardens, there was a sense of inevitability about the sweep. They had Game 4 ahead of them the very next day at home, which left the Otters very little time to regroup and figure out how to get Dylan Strome and the rest of their offence moving. Although Erie pushed back somewhat more in this game, the result surprised no one.
Through the opening minutes of the first period, both teams appeared tentative, and neither generated much in the way of chances. It took until 12:14 left in the first for the Knights' power play to get things going, as Matthew Tkachuk got a stick on a shot-pass from Aaron Berisha.
Leafs' prospect J.J. Piccinich pounced on a bad turnover by Erie goaltender Devin Williams and, with the goalie out of his net, Piccinich stepped around him and tucked the puck home on an empty net. It was a costly mistake for a team that could afford none, and it certainly stung all the more, coming with just 24 second left in the opening frame.
The Otters carried more of the play in the second, and drew within one just 2:44 in, as Travis Dermott peppered a couple writs shots on goal from the point before Jake Marchment finally tipped one by Knights' tender Tyler Parsons.
From there, the Otters appeared to have more life, as they began to make the Knights play more and more in their own zone, at one point widening the shot gap to 18-12.
The Knights' third line of Piccinich, Owen MacDonald, and Chandler Yakimowicz was instrumental in containing Strome for the night, and after some more great work on the cycle, Piccinich eventually found MacDonald for a quick one-timer to restore the Knights' two-goal lead.
At the end of two periods, the Otters had out-shot the Knights 20-15.
Erie got themselves in penalty trouble midway through the third period that helped London bring the shot count to within 2 shots. More importantly, Tkachuk pulled a slick move down low to get a good chance on goal that Dvorak was able to finish up to put the Knights ahead 4-1. Marner picked up the secondary assist for his first point of the night.
To ice the game with 3:42 left, it was Marner who notched his second point of the game with an empty net goal.
Notes on the prospects:
- Marner was quieter tonight than last offensively, but his defensive game was impeccable. He provided additional coverage at all ends of the ice, stepping in for pinching defenders, applying great backside pressure, and breaking up passes and plays in the defensive zone. Oh, and a "quiet" offensive night for him? Yeah, it's a goal and an assist. He certainly could have had others, too. He reads plays so well and always anticipates where the puck is going to go and if the team is going to need him to drop back.
- Piccinich picked up a goal and an assist and generally played a great game. He's a straight-line two-way guy who was a part of a line that cycled Dylan Strome's unit into the ground. Talk about a possession game, the man just didn't make any careless plays with the puck. He probably doesn't have the hands to be a top-six NHL player, but he could still prove to be a useful shutdown player - he certainly did that to Strome all series.
- Dermott wasn't afraid to get mean on a few occasions in this one, getting into a tussle with Piccinich behind the play once, and getting in the face of Tkachuk as much as possible. He's not afraid of open-ice hits, but doesn't run around too much, either. He got a few shots through the power play, and, while he isn't a huge threat in any situation, he is quietly effective. Effective enough to handle Marner, Tkachuk, and Dvorak? Well, not in this series. He'll be an interesting defensive prospect to watch, but he certainly wasn't a game breaker for Erie in this series.