Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews made history by scoring four goals in a “surreal” NHL debut on Wednesday night in Ottawa.
It took only eight minutes and 21 seconds for Matthews to enter the history books, scoring his first goal against Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. And only about six more minutes after that to enter them again with his second goal. Early in the second period, he became the first No. 1 pick to score a hat trick in his first game.
Then with three seconds left in the second period, he became the first player ever to score four goals in the modern era in his NHL debut.
According to the NHL record book, both Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens and Harry Hyland of the Montreal Wanderers share the record of five goals in their first NHL game. That happened on Dec. 19, 1917, the first night of the newly formed NHL, and both players had previously played in the National Hockey Association.
“It was pretty surreal, I couldn’t believe it,” said Matthews,
The Leafs ended up losing the game 5-4 in overtime after Kyle Turris blasted a shot from the top of the circle past Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Despite the loss, Toronto coach Mike Babcock saw plenty of positives in his team’s performance.
“For me, from my perspective, since I’ve been a Leafs coach that’s the best night we’ve had since I’ve been here by 10 miles, not even close,” Babcock said. “Now we have an opportunity.”
Matthews took ownership of the final goal by Turris, as the rookie made a mistake on the backcheck.
“That’s definitely my fault on that last goal, but you just have to learn from it and build off,” Matthews said.
The Leafs’ first overall pick scored the first goal of the NHL season — the league’s 100th anniversary — on his first shot and third shift.
Senators forward Bobby Ryan followed up Matthews’ first goal by tying the game at 1-1 just over two minutes later. Erik Karlsson gave Ottawa the lead at 12:49 of the first period, but it didn’t last long.
The 19-year-old scored his second goal on a spectacular individual effort 89 seconds later — on his second shot — after he stole the puck from Mark Stone, avoided a hit from Mark Hoffman and then stripped all-star Karlsson of the puck to score from a bad angle.
Sens 2, Matthews 2 pic.twitter.com/7Bf4CFYNIg
“He’s a man,” said Babcock. “He’s 19 years old, but he acts like he’s 27. He’s got good maturity.
“He’s a good player. When you see that second goal he scored not many guys can do that.”
Matthews became the 12th first-overall pick to score his first career goal in his first career game.
His third goal came only 1:25 into the second, with a one-timer from the slot after a pass from defenceman Morgan Rielly. Leafs fans threw hats on the ice, and Matthews’ mother had to hold back tears while high-fiving fans around her.
“Those were tears of joy,” Ema Matthews said. “I feel very excited. This is what Auston has been dreaming since he was six, [to] be playing right here in the NHL.”
“I hope that nobody’s going to wake me up here anytime soon,” Auston’s father Brian Matthews said. “This is unbelievable.”
hat trick for Matthews pic.twitter.com/bpySQgRkTB
“He’s the real deal,” said Senators coach Guy Boucher. “I told everybody and I saw it first hand last year so I’m not surprised. He’s the total package. He played against men last year and he’s playing against men now so I’m not surprised.”
Goal No. 4 came with three seconds left in the second period on a two-on-one with William Nylander, who fed the puck to Matthews. It was Nylander’s second assist of the night, giving Toronto a 4-3 lead entering the intermission.
Turris scored his first of the game 6:45 into the third, tying the game at 4-4, before scoring his second in overtime to give Ottawa the extra point.
Lost in the Matthews mayhem was the debut of Mitch Marner, the Leafs’ fourth-overall pick in 2015. Marner hit the crossbar in the first period missing out on his first career goal, but tied with Matthews for the team lead with six shots on goal.
Andersen was making his Toronto debut as well, but it was a night to forget as he allowed five goals on 30 shots.
Craig Anderson made 34 saves in the win.
“I’ll be remembered for one thing for a long, long time in Toronto,” said Anderson. “I didn’t know [Matthews’ four goals were a record] but I do now.”