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Matthews nets another hat trick, Maple Leafs hammer Ducks

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe is long past being in awe of his best player.

Auston Matthews filling the net has simply become the standard.

The sniper scored his sixth hat trick of the season — and second in as many games — to give him an NHL-leading 48 goals as part of a five-point night Saturday in Toronto's resounding 9-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

"It's pretty remarkable," Keefe said of Matthews. "Credit to him for getting into those spaces and being as dynamic as he is."

The 26-year-old is the 10th player to register six hat tricks in a campaign — and the first since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.

"Insane," William Nylander said after scoring once and setting up two others to hit 500 career points. "Crushing it."

Toronto is the 15th team in NHL history to record hat tricks in three straight games after Bobby McMann had the first of his career Tuesday and Matthews followed that up with three goals of his own Thursday before filling the net again 48 hours later.

"Guys are looking around like, 'This is ridiculous what he's doing,'" said McMann, who had two goals and an assist to give him six points this week. "Seems like every time it's on a stick, it goes in the net."

Tyler Bertuzzi snapped a long scoring drought for Toronto (29-16-8), while Nick Robertson and Jake McCabe, both with a goal and an assist, provided the rest of the offence. Timothy Liljegren had three assists. Mitch Marner, Max Domi and Matthew Knies added two each.

Martin Jones made 19 saves for the Leafs, who leapfrogged Tampa Bay for third in the Atlantic Division after the Lightning were embarrassed 9-2 by the Florida Panthers.

Ryan Strome, with a goal and an assist, and Frank Vatrano replied for Anaheim (19-33-2). Lukas Dostal allowed four goals on 18 shots in the first period before being replaced by John Gibson, who finished with nine stops.

"(We) watched them skate around the ice for the better part of the first period," Ducks head coach Greg Cronin said. "Terrible start."

Toronto was without suspended defenceman Morgan Rielly, while captain John Tavares sat out with what Keefe called a minor injury. Veteran blueliner Mark Giordano also wasn't available following the death of his father.

On pace to become the first NHLer to reach 70 goals since the 1992-93 season, Matthews opened the scoring at 3:41 of the first.

Toronto went up 2-0 when McMann snapped his sixth on a power play at 6:06 before McCabe fired his fifth at 10:33 past Dostal, who made 55 saves on Jan. 3 in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Leafs.

Vatrano got the Ducks back within two when he scored his 24th on a man advantage 59 seconds later. But the Leafs restored their three-goal lead on another power play when Nylander buried his 28th — and 500th regular-season point — at 17:37.

Gibson replaced Dostal following the intermission, but Matthews scored his second of the night 50 seconds into the second on another man advantage, and Bertuzzi snapped a 19-game slump with his seventh moments after hitting the post to push Toronto to 4-for-4 on the power play at 2:51.

"We all have each other's back," Bertuzzi said. "Good team win."

Matthews, who scored in OT on Dostal last month, completed his 13th hat trick all-time and secured the first five-point night of his career at 5:39 before chants of "M-V-P!" rang out around Scotiabank Arena.

"Playing here is a big honour," Matthews said. "It's something that none of us take for granted."

McMann added his second of the night and seventh overall at 17:58 for an 8-1 lead.

Saturday marked the first game against Toronto for Ducks defenceman Radko Gudas, who signed with Anaheim in the summer, since he helped Florida bounce the Leafs in the second round of last spring's playoffs.

The bruising blueliner drove the net on the Panthers' OT series clincher before celebrating in the face of Toronto goaltender Joseph Woll.

Gudas fought Domi early and then tussled with the Leafs centre after McMann scored Toronto's eighth, but appeared to decline multiple offers to drop the gloves with Leafs enforcer Ryan Reaves.

"I love what Max did, I loved Reavo's presence," Keefe said. "The attitude of our team, I think, has really changed a lot."

"Great message by those guys," Matthews added. "They bring that intensity and that fire."

Strome scored his ninth with 4:24 left in regulation before Robertson fired his eighth with 2:06 remaining.

"It's not often that you get a game like this where you put it in cruise control," Keefe said. "Nice to be able to have one of these here tonight."

A night where Matthews once again stole the show.


The Leafs lost defenceman William Lagesson to an upper-body injury in the first period, which eventually pushed Marner back to the blue line with the result assured.

"He looked right at home," Matthews said of his usual linemate. "Maybe next game he can put on the goalie gear."


Toronto visits St. Louis for a Monday matinee, while Anaheim is at Buffalo.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2024.


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