While John Tavares played in what could be his final game with the Oshawa Generals, one of the teams interested in his services showed it might not need him after all.
With trade speculation reaching its apex ahead of Friday's Ontario Hockey League trade deadline, Tavares had a strong game but didn't get much help from his teammates in an 8-2 loss to the Belleville Bulls on Wednesday night. The 18-year-old phenom had a goal and an assist, but finished with a minus-two rating in the rout.
Meanwhile, the London Knights, considered one of the front-runners to land Tavares, continued to roll. Daniel Erlich scored twice and added an assist as London cruised past the Erie Otters 6-2 for its 19th win in the past 22 games.
The Knights and Windsor Spitfires both hope to land Tavares, widely considered the best prospect in major junior hockey. Windsor and London rank 1-2 in offence in the OHL, and whichever team lands Tavares will be considered a heavy favourite to advance to the Memorial Cup next May in Rimouski, Que.
The Spitfires made a significant move earlier Wednesday, acquiring defenceman Ben Shutron, goaltender Josh Unice and forward Scott Timmins. In return, the Rangers received goaltender Brandon Maxwell, forward Jacob Lalonde, a third-round draft pick in 2009 and second-round selections in 2010 and 2011.
In other OHL action Wednesday, it was: Guelph 6 Owen Sound 5 (OT); and Saginaw 4 Sault Ste. Marie 0.
At Belleville, Ont., the Generals were no match for the retooled Bulls (26-12-2-2), who have won two straight and now lead the Eastern Conference by eight points over the idle Brampton Battalion.
Luke Pither had a game to remember in his Belleville debut, scoring three goals and adding two assists. Pither was acquired earlier Wednesday from the Guelph Storm for a second-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft.
Tavares scored at 13:10 of the first period - his 26th goal in 32 games this season - to tie the game 1-1. He added an assist on Kory Nagy's second-period goal that cut Belleville's lead to 3-2.
The Bulls followed with three unanswered goals to take a 6-2 lead after 40 minutes, and scored twice more in the third to complete the whitewash.
Oshawa (18-16-1-4) saw its two-game winning streak come to an end.
At Erie, Pa., Erlich scored twice in a 3:57 span of the first period to put the Knights (30-8-0-1) up for good. Vladimir Roth, Nazem Kadri, Justin Taylor and Jared Knight also had goals while Zac Rinaldo, making his Knights debut after being acquired in a Tuesday trade with the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors, added two assists.
Justin Hodgman scored his seventh goal in the last seven games to pace the Otters (20-18-2-0), who lost for the first time in seven games. Tyler Hostetter and Greg McKegg added singles.
Storm 6 Attack 5 (OT)
At Owen Sound, Ont., Michael Latta's second goal of the game 17 seconds into overtime propelled Guelph past the Attack.
Brandon Buck added a goal and three assists while Peter Holland, Matt Kennedy and Tyler Carroll also scored for the Storm (24-13-2-3)
Keevin Cutting, Joey Hishon, Marcus Carroll, Myles Doan and Mike Lomas replied for Owen Sound (15-16-5-3).
Spirit 4 Greyhounds 0
At Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Anthony Peters made 19 saves in Saginaw's win over the Greyhounds.
Kyle Bochek, Jordan Szwarz, Jordan Skellett and Jack Combs scored for the Spirit (22-14-0-3).
Cody St. Jacques stopped 33 shots in defeat for Sault Ste. Marie (15-23-2-1).