2016 First overall draft pick, Auston Matthews made his debut in the National Hockey League on Wednesday night as his Toronto Maple Leafs took on the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre.
For Matthews, it was a night to remember. The 19-year-old, from Scottsdale, Arizona became the first player in the modern era of the NHL to put up four goals in his debut.
Since the 1943-1944 season, there have been four other players that have scored three goals in their debuts. Alex Smart of the Montreal Canadiens did it in 1943, Real Cloutier for the Quebec Nordiques in 1979, Fabien Brunnstrom with the Dallas Stars in 2008 and Derek Stepan scored a hat trick in his debut with the New York Rangers in 2010.
Matthews said, “I am just speechless. As the periods kept going by you are kind of thinking to yourself you can’t really believe this is going on, it is that surreal. There was some good and some bad and we learn from it and continue to move forward.”
Matthews scored his first of the night on his first shot, 8:21 into the opening period. After the Senators grabbed a 2-1 lead, Matthews was able to get by Erik Karlsson, 14:18 into the first, and tie the game on his second shot.
Just about a minute and a half after the second period began, Matthews picked up the hat trick, on his third shot of the game giving the Leafs a 3-2 lead. The Senators battled back to tie the game, but with three second left in the middle frame, Matthews gave Toronto a 4-3 lead.
Kyle Turris knotted the game at four 6:43 in the third period and then would pick up the winner for the Senators, just 37 seconds into overtime, putting a little damper on Matthews’ historic night.
Matthews put most of the responsibility for the loss on himself, as Turris was able to get by him the overtime goal.
He said, “More of an ideal start to your season individually, I guess, but that last play was 100 percent my fault. We came here to win and we did not get that done, so just a good learning point for myself and the team, and we will be ready Saturday.”
His four goals came on six shots, in 17:12 of ice time.
Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock said, “We are all part of history tonight because we are here. [Matthews], a special player, I thought just for me, from my perspective, since I have been Maple Leafs coach that is the best night I have had since I have been here by 10 miles, not even close because now we have an opportunity when you look at [Mitch] Marner.”
He added, “I know Matthews scored all of the goals. I thought Marner in the first half of the game may have been the best player. I thought [William] Nylander was great. I thought [Zach] Hyman was great. I thought [Connor] Brown was great. I thought [Connor] Carrick was great. I thought [Nikita] Zaitsev was great. It was a pretty good night for us. Did we want the other point? Absolutely. The way we controlled the puck and controlled the game, you have got to win. We did not.”
One of the things that help make his night even more special, was that his parents made it up to the Canadian capital. Matthews said, “It is something you can’t write up. I was pretty special having my parents here for them to share the moment with me.”
Former NHLer, Martin St. Louis said via text message and Twitter, “I know it is just one game but when he had the puck, I was waiting for something good to happen. And after he scored one early, I bought the NHL package so I could watch the game from Connecticut.”
St. Louis did note that with only 23 active players to ever put up four or more in one game, it might be tough for him to match the accomplishment from his debut. Alexander Ovechkin has three four goal games, Marion Gaborik and David Backes have two.
The ageless wonder, Jaromir Jagr, who ranks third on the NHL’s All-Time Goal Scoring list, only has one four goal game in his longtime career. Sidney Crosby has never put up four in one game, to this date.
While Matthews may be the first player in the modern era, to light the lamp four times in his debut, there were two other players in the last 100 years, Joe Malone and Harry Hyland in 1917, that did it five times.