Auston Matthews continues his ‘unreal’ season, scoring 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 Tuesday night to secure home field advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The 24-year-old American, who has been on target in five games, is the first player since Steven Stamkos in 2011/12 to score 60 goals in a season.

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

“The work is not done yet,” he said simply. “The work is not finished yet.”

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

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

Matthews, who qualified for his third straight game after missing three straight games with an undisclosed injury, had a number of great looks in the opening 35 minutes of the game before eventually beating Alex Nedeljkovic 4-12 in the second third defeated.

“It’s something special, it’s unique, it’s rare. I’m just really happy for him,” said Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe. “You know the skills 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 hitting those milestones is outstanding.”

With the Leafs in the middle of a line change, Jason Spezza fed Matthews up front before passing the Detroit goalie and slipping home in 59th place before “MVP!” rang the bell at the 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 held the puck on the offensive blue line before he shot ripped past Nedeljkovic’s glove to send the crowd into yet another frenzy.

Matthew’s teammates gave him a standing ovation on the bench while some fans threw hats on the ice in honor of the achievement.

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

The competition gets a lot tougher next week as Matthews and Toronto look to get past the elusive first round. The Lightning are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions and the Bruins have bounced back to the top 100 points after a slow start. Both teams won Tuesday night and are collectively responsible for the last three Eastern Conference titles.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Auston Matthews continues his ‘unreal’ season, scoring 60 goals as Toronto Maple Leafs cruise

Joel McCord

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