That’s 30: Matthews makes his mark

Rookie scores twice in 3-2 OT loss to Mon­treal

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JONAS SIEGEL

TORONTO — Aus­ton Matthews had No. 31 on his stick.

It was less than a minute into Satur­day’s over­time and the 19-year-old was in alone op­po­site Mon­treal Canadiens net­min­der Carey Price. Matthews had al­ready beaten Price twice in reg­u­la­tion and an­other goal would have de­liv­ered the Maple Leafs a much-needed two points — not to men­tion a sec­ond ca­reer hat trick for the al­ready dom­i­nant Amer­i­can cen­tre.

Matthews got the shot off — de­spite Alex Galchenyuk’s best ef­forts in re­treat, in­clud­ing an at­tempted whack — but Price got the knob of his stick on it, send­ing the shot and ul­ti­mately the game Mon­treal’s way as the Canadiens went on to win 3-2.

Matthews be­came just the third Leafs rookie ever to hit 30 goals with his two-goal per­for­mance in de­feat against the Canadiens — the 14th straight loss for Toronto against Mon­treal. He’s rapidly ap­proach­ing the fran­chise rookie record for goals in one sea­son, just five from eclips­ing Wen­del Clark, who had 34 goals in the 198586 sea­son. Daniel Marois is the only other Leafs rookie to hit 30 goals, notch­ing 31 for the club in the 1988-89 sea­son.

“I knew he was an elite player,” Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock said when asked if he ex­pected Matthews to score 30. “I never spent any time think­ing about what his stats would be, just that he would help us win. That’s what I like about him — he helps you win be­cause he plays right and he’s get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day. He’s go­ing to be our No. 1 cen­tre here — if he’s not al­ready — in no time and he’ll be a guy who’s driv­ing our fran­chise.”

Matthews trails only Sid­ney Crosby (34) in the Rocket Richard tro­phy race, top­ping the Leafs both in goals and points (54) and also now equal to Win­nipeg’s Pa­trik Laine for top spot among all rook­ies in both cat­e­gories.

His first goal against Mon­treal was a solo ef­fort. Matthews got a pass from Jake Gar­diner in the neu­tral zone and burst into the of­fen­sive end with speed. To gain just a touch more space from the Canadiens de­fence, he slowed up as he ap­proached the right face­off cir­cle and then let it rip.

The shot hit the out­stretched stick and then arm of Habs de­fence­man Alexei Emelin, bounced off the ice and then snuck through Price’s pads

It was his Na­tional Hockey League-lead­ing 11th game-open­ing goal of the sea­son. For No. 30, Matthews got his stick on a pass from Zach Hy­man, do­ing so just be­fore Emelin could tie him up in front.

Matthews fin­ished with two goals and seven shots in al­most 18 min­utes, his line strug­gling at even-strength against Mon­treal (33 per cent puck pos­ses­sion).

Satur­day was his fifth multi-goal game of the year. Matthews is on pace for 73 points, which would break Peter Ih­nacak’s fran­chise rookie mark of 66 (1982-83). He has six gamewin­ning goals with a shot at equalling and per­haps pass­ing Howie Meeker’s rookie record of eight, which has stood for 70 years.

FRANK GUNN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Aus­ton Matthews, right, and Wil­liam Ny­lan­der cel­e­brate Matthews’ sec­ond goal of the con­test that knot­ted things up at 2 in the third pe­riod Satur­day night.

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