Auston Matthews’ second hat-trick in as many games lifts Maple Leafs to another wild win
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
If you watched the home opener Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens, you know it was a crazy game from start to finish that ultimately ended up with Toronto securing the win in the shootout.
However, the Minnesota Wild are a completely different team than the young Canadiens squad the Maple Leafs saw in their first game of the year. If Toronto wanted any chance at winning, they had to clean some of their mistakes up from the opener and play smart hockey against a Wild team that doesn’t give up much on the ice.
The game started pretty well for Toronto. They registered the first three shots as they tested Gustavsson early on, but a stingy Wild team weathered the early storm and flipped the switch to apply the pressure on the Maple Leafs.
Reaves, who laid two big hits against the Canadiens and fought Arber Xhekaj in the home opener, laid two monster hits against his former team. He flattened Marco Rossi in the offensive zone and then caught Frederik Gaudreau toe dragging and crushed him with an open-ice hit.
The hit was so big that it caught Marcus Foligno’s attention, and the two former teammates dropped the gloves in front of a packed Scotiabank Arena.
Shortly after the fight, Minnesota opened the scoring silencing the crowd as Ryan Hartman tipped home his first of the season just before the midway point of the first period.
However, not even two minutes after Hartman scored his first of the year, Auston Matthews picked up where he left off from the opener as he sniped his fourth of the year past Gustavsson to tie the game at one.
After getting even against the Wild, the Maple Leafs were awarded a power play due to a Jon Merrill interference penalty.
Like he’s been doing in the early going of the season, Auston Matthews continued his hot start with his fifth of the season as he fired a shot toward Gustavsson, and it found its way past him to take the one-goal lead.
With the momentum in Toronto’s favour following their second goal, they slowly allowed the Wild to create more chances including a breakaway attempt that was denied by Samosnov.
That was a massive save because shortly after, Nylander scored an early goal-of-the-year candidate to go up by two goals.
I didn’t expect a 3-1 game after the first period because of how well the Wild play defensively and that it was a 2-1 game the last time these two teams played each other.
Anyways, Toronto was awarded another power play, this time early in the second period, and didn’t pass up the opportunity to go up three goals. Sudbury native Tyler Bertuzzi potted home his first as a Maple Leaf after receiving a nice pass from Jarnkrok down low.
Up 4-1, you have a little voice in the back of your head if you’re a Toronto fan who always wonders if they’re going to do it again…
Well, The Wild might’ve had that similar voice because they scored two quick goals to cut the three-goal deficit to a one-goal deficit as youngsters Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi scored twice in five minutes to give the Wild some life again.
Toronto headed into the second intermission up by one.
With the Maple Leafs holding on to a one-goal lead entering the third period after initially having a three-goal lead, there was that feeling in you that wondered if they were going to choke a three-goal lead this early in the season, but Morgan Rielly and Calle Jarnkrok quickly shut that down as they connected on a beautiful pass and re-direct to restore Toronto’s two-goal lead.
After rejuvenating the crowd with Jarnkrok’s first of the season, Auston Matthews decided it would be cool if he scored again to net his second hat-trick in as many games to start the season.
A backhand wraparound beat Gustavsson to give Toronto their second three-goal lead and Matthews’ sixth goal of the season.
Before the fans could let the fact that Matthews recorded his second hat trick to start the year sink in, William Nylander went streaking down the wing and fired his second of the night – and third of the season – not even two minutes after Matthews made it 6-3.
A once 4-1 lead that turned into a 4-3 lead is now quickly a 6-3 lead midway through the final period of play.
With seven goals on the board for Toronto and the crowd jumping around to the new goal song, I don’t think some fans in attendance cared that much that Minnesota scored to make it 7-4 with just over two minutes to go in the game.
Who stood out:
I think it’s obvious who stood out and had themselves a good game last night.
The Bertuzzi-Matthews-Marner line was buzzing all night and combined for six points (four goals and two assists) between five-on-five and the power-play.
Matthews recorded another hat-trick, Bertuzzi scored his first as a Maple Leaf and Marner with a multi-assist effort in the thrilling 7-4 win.
The Domi-Tavares-Nylander line also looked good out there, but those three might get hemmed in their zone quite a bit this season because they were stuck in their zone for a while last night. However, we did see Keefe go with Jarnkrok on that second line at times last night forcing Domi to slide down to the third line with the youngsters Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Sportsnet Monday night at home against Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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