Auston Matthews continues his ‘unreal’ season, reaches 60 goals as Toronto Maple Leafs cruise


TORONTO — Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 59th and 60th goals of the season as the Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 on Tuesday night to clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The 24-year-old American, who snapped a five-game goal drought, is the first player to score 60 times in a campaign since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12.

But Matthews has made it clear all season that these Maple Leafs have bigger and better plans than regular-season statistics, and during his postgame media availability, he stayed true to his strategy.

“Job’s not done,” he said, simply. “Work’s not finished.”

John Tavares had the other goal and Jack Campbell made 20 saves to register his fifth shutout of the season for Toronto (53-21-7), which set a franchise record with its 30th home victory of the season. William Nylander added two assists.

The Leafs are now locked into the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division and will open the playoffs next week at Scotiabank Arena against either the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning.

Matthews, who suited up for his third straight game after missing three in a row with an undisclosed injury, had a number of great looks through the game’s first 35 minutes before finally solving Alex Nedeljkovic with 4:12 left in the second period.

“It’s special, it’s unique, it’s rare. I’m just really happy for him,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “You know the abilities he has, but he works extremely hard at his game, off the ice, he takes his craft very seriously. To see him at the top of his game and reaching these milestones, it’s outstanding.”

With the Leafs in the middle of a line change, Jason Spezza fed Matthews in front before he outwaited the Detroit goaltender and slid home No. 59 before chants of “M-V-P!” rang around Scotiabank Arena.

“It’s unreal,” Tavares, the team’s captain, said of Matthews’ season.

And after Tavares doubled the Leafs’ lead at 4:03 of the third with his 27th, Matthews made history by burying No. 60 on a power play at 5:49 when he kept the puck in at the offensive blue line before ripping a shot past Nedeljkovic’s glove to send the crowd into another frenzy.

Matthews’ teammates gave him an ovation on the bench, while some fans threw hats on the ice in honor of the accomplishment.

“It was pretty special, honestly. The reception from my teammates, the crowd, everything,” Matthews said. “It sends chills down your bones. It’s kind of hard to put into words, you know?”

The competition will be much more difficult next week as Matthews and Toronto try to advance past the elusive first round. The Lightning are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions and the Bruins have rallied after a slow start to top 100 points. Both teams won on Tuesday night, and together, they are responsible for the last three Eastern Conference titles.

The Maple Leafs will host the Bruins on Friday night in the regular-season finale for both clubs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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