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Matthews' chase for 70 goals to come down to the wire


After a two-goal performance against the Florida Panthers, the chase for 70 goals remains on for Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.

Following Monday's 6-4 victory, Matthews now has a career-high 62 goals in 73 games this season with eight games left on the Maple Leafs’ schedule.

With four goals in his past four games, Matthews has reignited the 70-goal discussion, although his season pace has him on track to finish just short at 68.8.

The American centre has a strong chance to top Alex Ovechkin's 65 goals in 2007-08 for the most goals in the cap era. Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid fell just short last season with 64 goals, but is out of the Rocket Richard race this season with just 29 goals. 

“We’ve got more stuff to worry about in our locker room as far as trying to build our game toward the end of the season and stuff,” Matthews said last month of topping Ovechkin's mark. "The individual stuff, obviously you want to accomplish stuff. You want to push yourself to be as great as you can. That’s what I try to do every night.

"I’m just going to continue to push and try to elevate my game towards the stretch and do what I can to help the team win.”

The 26-year-old centre is also closing on a new career-high in points, sitting at 98 this season. He topped the 100-point mark for the only time in his career in 2021-22, when he scored 60 goals, finishing with 106 points. 

Matthews endured a quiet month of March by his lofty standards, finishing with seven goals in 14 games. Averaging a goal a game this month to close out of the season isn't out of the question for Matthews, who had 13 goals in 12 games in February and 15 goals in 12 games in December. 

Despite hitting a new career high in goals, Matthews kept his focus on team success after Monday's game against the Panthers, who loom as the Maple Leafs' likely first-round playoff opponent. 

“I thought we just came out with a lot of purpose there especially in the first, and pretty sound game overall,” Matthews said. “Obviously, in the third there I thought we were a little bit more on our heels than we’d like to be, but that’s a really good team over there, so you give them an inch, they’re going to take a yard.

"Obviously, nice to finish off with the win and two points, but obviously you’d like to clean up some stuff there in the third and be more on the offensive I’d say.”

The final stretch of the season begins Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Toronto plays the Lightning and New Jersey Devils twice in the final eight games, with the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Panthers also left on the schedule.

Matthews has averaged a goal a game or better against the Lightning, Devils and Canadiens this season. He's up to two goals in three games against the Panthers, while he's without a goal in a combined three games against the Red Wings and Penguins this season.