Knee Jerk Reaction: Matthews sets another record with 66th goal

Photo credit:Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
17 days ago
The devil lies in the details and to be sure, there are other nuanced aspects of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils to discuss. Auston Matthews is relegating all other parts of the game to a footnote, becoming the first player of the salary cap era with 66 goals. The last person to reach the 66-goal mark in a season was Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 and Matthews wasn’t even born yet.
Matthews’ constant assault on the record book took centre stage Tuesday, providing the Maple Leafs with a necessary insurance goal. Toronto controlled the run of play for the majority of the contest and limited the potency of a New Jersey club that will be without its superstar forward Jack Hughes for the remainder of the year.
Nick Robertson continued to make a strong case for his inclusion on the opening night playoff roster, opening the scoring after being reinserted into the lineup. Robertson picked up a rebound generated from a Morgan Rielly rebound and with Pontus Holmberg doing some dirty work in front of the net, the 22-year-old deposited his 13th goal of the season.
It wasn’t a perfect outing. Simon Benoit and Jake McCabe got sliced apart as Nico Hischier dangled Joseph Woll badly for the game-tying goal. Matthew Knies, who drew two penalties during an outstanding first period, took an awful minor penalty after giving the puck away to Dawson Mercer, then slashed him while backtracking. Mercer scored moments later after Mitch Marner carelessly turned the puck over to Hischier, who drew a massive rebound for his linemate. It was 2-1 against the run of play and for a moment, the Maple Leafs were in danger of losing a game due to two mental errors.
And sometimes talent wins out. Max Domi — who continues to prove that he’s one of the league’s best playmakers — delivered a perfect pass to Tyler Bertuzzi for the game’s equalizing goal — his first of two on the night as Bertuzzi added an empty-netter, sending the home crowd onto the New Jersey Turnpike preemptively. Before New Jersey could catch its collective breath, Bertuzzi raced down the ice, won a puck back to Matthews, who got it back to Mark Giordano. Giordano, perhaps tapped into the Blue Jays home opener, fired a knuckleball on net which eluded Jake Allen for the game-winner.
As for Matthews, we’re running out of superlatives. Toronto passed the century mark for the season, now sitting at 101 points with four games remaining. He will win the Rocket and he could challenge Aleksander Barkov — a probable first-round opponent — for the Selke. We’re all living in No. 34’s world. Hit ’em with the four like Auston Matthews!

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