Auston Matthews scores twice in Toronto Maple Leafs' win over Detroit Red Wings

By Bob Duff, The Sports Xchange
Toronto Maple Leafs center Brooks Laich (23) prepares for the faceoff. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI
Toronto Maple Leafs center Brooks Laich (23) prepares for the faceoff. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

DETROIT -- The records are nice. The playoffs would be special.

As much as Auston Matthews has amazed people this season, even more amazing to the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie would be a chance to participate in the NHL's second season.


"It would mean a lot," Matthews said of making the playoffs.

Matthews, the first player chosen in the 2016 NHL entry draft, moved the Leafs a step closer to that reality, scoring twice, including the game-winner with 1:19 left in the third period, as the Leafs edged the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 on Saturday night.

The Leafs haven't qualified for postseason play since 2012-13.

"That's been our goal the whole season for everybody," Matthews said. "It's what we've been working toward the past month, trying to get better as a team, playing with good structure, playing as a team."


The Leafs are 10-2-1 in their last 13 games and have moved into a second-place tie in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators, but they are just one point ahead of the fourth-place Boston Bruins.

"We're in a good position right now," Matthews said. "But it's a tight race."

Matthews leads all NHL rookies with a team rookie record 38 goals and 66 points, the latter number moving him into a tie with Peter Ihnacak for the Leafs' rookie point mark. Ihnacak set the standard in 1982-83.

After Gus Nyquist gave the Red Wings a 1-0 first-period lead, Matthews tied the score 2:56 into the second period, slipping a shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard on the short side.

"I've seen that a couple of times from him," teammate Mitch Marner said. "He's a got a quick release and he tricks a lot of people with it."

Fellow rookie Marner scored on a breakaway and then William Nylander, another Leafs rookie, beat Howard with a screenshot to make it 3-1.

"We've got great young players and that makes me smarter as a coach," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "Those three have been difference-makers for their whole lives, so they don't know anything else.


"We trust them to do that for us, and we give them a lot of ice time to do it."

Detroit rookie Nick Jensen pulled the Wings within a goal late in the second period, backhanding the rebound of his own shot past Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen at 16:42.

Niklas Kronwall tied it for Detroit at 5:19 of the third period, igniting a frenzy of goals in the final moments of the period.

James Van Riemsdyk's backhander past Howard at 17:34 of the third snapped a 3-3 tie and put Toronto ahead for good.

After Matthews gave the Leafs a 5-3 lead, Detroit's Mike Green pulled the Red Wings close again when he scored at 19:15.

"I thought we poured lots into the game," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "We're disappointed we didn't come out with a better outcome."

NOTES: Detroit F Gus Nyquist set a career high with 33 assists this season. ... Detroit F Riley Sheahan has 103 shots on goal and has yet to score this season. In NHL history, no forward has taken at least 100 shots in a season and not scored. ... The Red Wings played without F Anthony Mantha (broken finger) and F Luke Glendening (broken ankle). ... D Ryan Sproul (knee) was also scratched. ... The Wings lost F Andreas Athanasiou briefly in the second period after he was clipped in the mouth with the stick of Toronto's Connor Carrick. Athanasiou required stitches to the lip and returned for the third period wearing a facemask. ... Leafs scratches were D Alexey Marchenko, D Martin Marincin, F Josh Leivo, F Ben Smith and F Nikita Soshnikov. ... Leafs F Zach Hyman has established a team rookie mark with four shorthanded goals. ... Hyman and Detroit F Dylan Larkin were college linemates with the Michigan Wolverines. ... Fifteen players on the Leafs' roster weren't born the last time the Wings missed the playoffs in 1989-90. ... Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, a former Wings forward, borrowed a pair of Toronto coach Mike Babcock's skates to take a final spin around the Joe Louis Arena ice surface on Saturday afternoon.


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