WINDSOR, Ont. - The storied Ontario Hockey League career of John Tavares likely came to an end Wednesday, as the Windsor Spitfires beat the London Knights in 4-3 overtime to win the Western Conference final 4-1.
Eric Wellwood scored 10:14 into overtime to send Tavares and the Knights packing.
"It's disappointing to lose the series, especially when we were looking to make a championship run, but all of these games were evenly-matched and could have gone either way," said Tavares, expected to be one of the top picks at this summer's NHL entry draft.
"These are two teams who had players that never took a shift off in any game."
The Oakville, Ont., native broke the OHL goal mark of 213 in March and finished with a career total of 215 goals and 218 assists.
All five games in the series were decided in overtime, a first in the OHL.
"That's a great team over there," said Tavares of the Spitfires. "We played as well as we could, but in the end it was not enough."
Tavares said after the game that he had been suffering from a nagging shoulder injury from a hit during a game in London in February, but added the injury wasn't severe enough to keep him out of the Knights' lineup, and certainly not in the playoffs.
Tavares opened the scoring Wednesday on a London power play with 38 seconds left in the first period.
Leigh Salters upped the Knights lead to two goals 34 seconds into the second, also on the power play. Tavares picked up an assist on the goal.
Taylor Hall and Lane MacDermid replied for the Spitfires to even the game before London's Zac Rinaldo scored his first of the post-season to put the visitors up by a goal heading into the third.
Windsor's Harry Young scored his first goal of the playoffs to set the stage for overtime.
Andrew Engelage made 40 saves in the win while Trevor Cann made 50 saves in defeat.
Windsor head coach Bob Boughner was quick to praise his players for their physical conditioning and suggested that it was one of the deciding factors of the series.
"I think we have to be one of the best physically-conditioned teams in the league, if not the best," he said.
"All of our guys put a lot of effort into being as physically prepared as possible and I think you saw the results of those efforts in this series."
Tavares, who was instrumental in helping Team Canada win the gold medal at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships, was acquired by the Knights from the Oshawa Generals in a blockbuster deal at the OHL trade deadline in January.
"I think I need to take some time off and rest up and get stronger," said Tavares. "Then I'm going to get back training." He finished the OHL playoffs with 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in 14 games.
The Spitfires now await either the Brampton Battalion or the Belleville Bulls in the OHL finals, which will likely begin in Windsor next week.