London Knights: Back in time — May 21

This is part of an ongoing series in which we look back on amazing moments in London Knights history. Each day, we’ll bring you a new memory leading up to the anniversaries of the team’s Memorial Cup championships in 2005 and 2016.

Fifteen years later, it is still considered the most exciting hockey game ever played in London.

The odds of it living up to its own hype were long — like Giacomo or Mine that Bird at the Kentucky Derby long.

But on May 21, 2005 the opening game of the Memorial Cup tournament in London, Ont., featuring Corey Perry and the London Knights on one side and Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic on the other, came through.

And then some.

Let’s put the buildup to this game into perspective.

London began 2004-2005 on a 29-0-2 run and won 59 of the 68 games they played.

Rimouski ended the regular season by going 28-0-2 and won 45 of 70 in total.

The Knights lost just twice in the OHL playoffs.

The Oceanic lost only once in the QMJHL playoffs.

Crosby, Corey Perry, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Dave Bolland, Rob Schremp, Dan Fritsche; the string of stars read like a must-see list of a young astronomy buff.

And thanks to the schedule, the clubs went head to head on Day 1.

If the fans had no idea what to expect, imagine how the players felt inside each dressing room before that game.

The other side felt superhuman; call it fear of the unknown. There were butterflies in warm-up that felt more like murder hornets.

As the London players sat down on the bench to start the game they tried their best to downplay things. Sidney Crosby was just a teenager who happened to be good at hockey, wasn’t he? He was wearing skates and holding a stick just like they were. Just like any other opponent, right?

When the puck dropped at centre ice, Crosby grabbed it, zoomed across the Knights blue line, put a toe-drag move on a defenceman and zipped a pass across the slot. The next thing anyone heard was a shot ringing off the cross-bar.

So much for this being any other opponent.

Even after an inauspicious start like that it was London who opened the scoring from one of the most unlikely sources and in one of the most unlikely ways.

The players sat down in their stalls but no one was down. In fact, in that 17-minute intermission, the Knights came to the conclusion that they had faced the Oceanic’s best shot and they were only down by two.

And they went out to change that in the next 20 minutes.

The Knights got what they were looking for quickly. Just 1:44 into the second period, Danny Syvret and Robbie Schremp combined to set up Danny Fritsche and he he scored to make it 3-2.

Once again London outshot Rimouski. This time 16-9 but they headed to the third period down a goal.

Big stars step up in big moments and that’s what Corey Perry did. The future NHL MVP put a puck past Desjardins just over four minutes into the third period and that brought London back into a tie game. Methot picked up an assist on the goal for his second point of the game.

Things stayed that way through regulation, giving fans whose fingernails had long disappeared something else to sweat about.

Then Knights had created the majority of the chances through the first 60 minutes. They owned the shot clock by a 2 to 1 margin having put 43 pucks at the Rimouski net while the Oceanic countered with 21 at Adam Dennis.

Overtime was far more calculated. The teams traded chances and through nearly 10 minutes, nothing had been solved.

Then Perry grabbed a puck and raced up the right side of the ice for the Knights. As he entered the Rimouski zone he could hear shouts of “TWO” from the London bench and from the crowd.

His teammates and the fans were trying to tell him that the defensive-minded Methot had made the decision to charge up ice and join Perry on a 2-on-1.

Perry feathered a pass to Methot and he walked into the slot and fired home the overtime winner.

London had slain the Crosby-led dragon for the first time. There would be another matchup still to come.

But for just that moment, the Knights and everyone cheering for them to finish a fairy tale season got to soak in the emotion of a thriller and a classic.

The most exciting hockey game ever played in London.

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