TORONTO — Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 59th and sixtieth objectives of the season because the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Purple Wings 3-0 on Tuesday night time to clinch home-ice benefit within the first spherical of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The 24-year-old American, who snapped a five-game purpose drought, is the primary participant to attain 60 instances in a marketing campaign since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12.
However Matthews has made it clear all season lengthy that these Maple Leafs have larger and higher plans than regular-season statistics, and through his postgame media availability, he stayed true to his technique.
“Job’s not completed,” he mentioned, merely. “Work’s not completed.”
John Tavares had the opposite purpose and Jack Campbell made 20 saves to register his fifth shutout of the season for Toronto (53-21-7), which set a franchise file with its thirtieth dwelling victory of the season. William Nylander added two assists.
The Leafs are actually locked into the No. 2 seed within the Atlantic Division and can open the playoffs subsequent week at Scotiabank Enviornment in opposition to both the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning.
Matthews, who suited up for his third straight recreation after lacking three in a row with an undisclosed damage, had quite a few nice seems by way of the sport’s first 35 minutes earlier than lastly fixing Nedeljkovic with 4:12 left within the second interval.
“It’s particular, it’s distinctive, it’s uncommon. I’m simply actually joyful for him,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned. “You understand the skills he has, however he works extraordinarily onerous at his recreation, off the ice, he takes his craft very severely. To see him on the high of his recreation and reaching these milestones, it’s excellent.”
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With the Leafs in the course of a line change, Jason Spezza fed Matthews in entrance earlier than he outwaited the Detroit goaltender and slid dwelling No. 59 earlier than chants of “M-V-P!” rang round Scotiabank Enviornment.
“It’s unreal,” Tavares, the staff’s captain, mentioned of Matthews’ season.
And after Tavares doubled the Leafs’ lead at 4:03 of the third along with his twenty seventh, Matthews made historical past by burying No. 60 on an influence play at 5:49 when he stored the puck in on the offensive blue line earlier than ripping a shot previous Nedeljkovic’s glove to ship the group into one other frenzy.
Matthews’ teammates gave him an ovation on the bench, whereas some followers threw hats on the ice in honor of the accomplishment.
“It was fairly particular, truthfully. The reception from my teammates, the group, all the pieces,” Matthews mentioned. “It sends chills down your bones. It’s sort of onerous to place into phrases, you understand?”
The competitors will probably be rather more tough subsequent week as Matthews and Toronto attempt to advance previous the elusive first spherical. The Lightning are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, and the Bruins have rallied after a gradual begin to high 100 factors. Each groups received on Tuesday night time, and collectively, they’re liable for the final three Japanese Convention titles.
The Maple Leafs will host the Bruins on Friday night time within the regular-season finale for each golf equipment.
The Related Press contributed to this report.