Auston Matthews reaches 58 goals, authors ‘something special’ as Toronto Maple Leafs seal berth

TORONTO — On a night the Toronto Maple Leafs paid tribute to Auston Matthews for setting the franchise’s single-season goalscoring record earlier in the week, the star center added two more before the first even ended. period.

Matthews scored his 57th and 58th goals 27 seconds apart early in the first period as the Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2, to reach 100 points this season.

John Tavares added his 26th goal of the season and goaltender Erik Kallgren made 24 saves as Toronto won its seventh game in the last eight downs to officially secure a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference for a sixth consecutive season. The Maple Leafs also extended their lead to second place in the Atlantic Division behind the Florida Panthers.

Matthews’ opener marked his 50th goal in his last 50 games, making him the first player to accomplish the feat since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.

Matthews extended his point streak to 16 games (21 goals, 10 assists). His teammate Mitchell Marner has a 13-game streak (eight goals, 20 assists).

“You knew something special was happening,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I’m actually surprised he stopped at two (goals).”

During the win over their biggest rival, Matthews and the Maple Leafs often heard chants of “MVP!” waterfall at the bottom of the bleachers.

“You just get chills,” Matthews said as he heard the calls. “Chills in the bones.”

Cole Caufield and Joel Edmundson scored for Montreal. Jake Allen stopped the first 14 shots he faced before leaving with a leg injury apparent as he stretched for Matthews’ first goal. Sam Montembeault made 23 saves the rest of the way.

Matthews set Toronto’s single-season goalscoring record when he scored for the 55th and 56th times Thursday night in a 4-3 overtime win at Dallas.

Rick Vaive, who held the franchise mark of 54 goals in a campaign for 40 years, was on hand at Scotiabank Arena earlier Saturday to personally congratulate the 24-year-old on his accomplishment before becoming the NHL’s first ever player. in 26 years to score 50. 50.

During a first-period stoppage, there was a standing ovation and a set of highlights on arena screens to honor Matthews.

“That was cool,” he said. “I didn’t know this was happening, so it took me by surprise.”

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos was the last NHL player to score 60 goals when he reached the milestone in 2011-12.

If the season ended on Saturday night, the Maple Leafs, who next play the Buffalo Sabers on Tuesday night, will face the Boston Bruins in the first round.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.