Matthews un­stop­pable

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - KYLE GLASER

Maple Leafs rookie star scores while be­ing hooked to the ice

RALEIGH, N.C. — Carolina’s Phil Di Giuseppe did ev­ery­thing he could to stop Aus­ton Matthews from get­ting to the net, go­ing so far as to hook the young Toronto rookie down to the ice. It didn’t mat­ter. Matthews still found a way to put the puck in the back of the net.

Matthews had a high­light-reel goal on a back­han­der as he was sent twirling to the ice, Con­nor Brown scored twice, and the Maple Leafs beat the Hur­ri­canes 4-0 Sun­day.

“When you’re get­ting hooked like that (the goal is) to No. 1 keep your bal­ance and, (No.) 2, find the puck and be able to push it,” Brown said of Matthews. “He’s an elite goal scorer for a rea­son.”

Jake Gardiner added a goal and two as­sists, James van Riems­dyk had two as­sists and Cur­tis McEl­hin­ney made 37 saves for the Maple Leafs to earn his first shutout since Jan­uary 2014.

Toronto snapped a two-game skid and jumped into the fi­nal play­off spot in the East­ern Con­fer­ence with the win.

Brown opened the scor­ing 1:07 into the sec­ond pe­riod when he redi­rected a bounc­ing pass from van Riems­dyk over Carolina goalie Cam Ward’s shoul­der into the up­per cor­ner of the net, the first of two times they would con­nect in that fash­ion.

Matthews dou­bled Toronto’s lead later in the pe­riod in jaw-drop­ping fash­ion. The 19-year-old wun­derkind car­ried the puck in from the left side of the blue line to­ward the crease when Di Giuseppe hooked him, even los­ing his stick in the process. As Matthews’ body turned away from the net as he be­gan to spi­ral down, he flung his stick to­ward the net in mid-air and slid the loose puck be­tween Ward’s pads just be­fore he hit the ice.

“I had a good amount of speed go­ing into it to carry me to the net and then just tried to sneak it in there,” Matthews said. “Pretty lucky play, I guess.”

His team­mates at­trib­uted it to some­thing other than luck.

“Just the strength, while he was fall­ing, to score that goal, that was pretty im­pres­sive,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner and Brown fin­ished the scor­ing with goals 1:59 apart in the third pe­riod.

McEl­hin­ney earned his first shutout with the Maple Leafs, and the fifth of his ca­reer. He im­proved to 3-3 with Toronto since be­ing claimed off waivers from Colum­bus last month.

“Right now, I feel pretty good in net and for the most part we’re get­ting re­sults,” McEl­hin­ney said. “That’s the most im­por­tant thing.”

Ward made 20 saves for Carolina be­fore be­ing pulled with 10:58 re­main­ing in the third pe­riod.

Ed­die Lack made seven saves in relief for the Hur­ri­canes, who are win­less in their last four games (03-1).

“We had no fire tonight,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “None.”

NOTES: Mitch Marner missed his sec­ond straight game with an up­per-body in­jury for Toronto. He en­tered the day tied for the team lead with 48 points. … The Hur­ri­canes re­called Di Giuseppe from Char­lotte of the AHL ear­lier in the day . ... Jeff Skin­ner played his 472nd game for Carolina, ty­ing him with Ron Fran­cis for 10th all-time in games played for the fran­chise since it re­lo­cated in 1997. UP NEXT Maple Leafs: Host Win­nipeg on Tues­day.

Hur­ri­canes: Host Pitts­burgh on Tues­day.

CHRIS SE­WARD, TNS

Aus­ton Matthews who was pulled down by Carolina’s Phillip Di Giuseppe was still able to beat Cam Ward for a high­light reel goal Sun­day night in Raleigh.

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