Auston Matthews Hits 50 Goals; Leafs Storm Back with Five Straight Goals to Beat Winnipeg 7-3

Tensions in the Scotiabank Arena were at a high on Thursday evening as Leafs Superstar forward Auston Matthews looked to reach the 50 goal plateau for the first time in his career, and becoming the fourth Leaf to do so in franchise history.

The last Leaf skater to hit 50 goals in a season was Dave Andreychuck in 1993-94, as Matthews now needs five more goals to break the Maple Leaf single season goal record, set by Rick Vaive in 1981-82.

Winnipeg came to Toronto on the second half of a back to back when they took down the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout on Wednesday, as they have been playing some hot hockey as of late.

Going into the game against the Leafs, the Jets had won three in a row and 10 of their 16 games in March. They would need all the points they could get as the race for the second wildcard spot in the West is getting very tight.

The Jets would come out firing scoring twice on their first four shots, as Erik Kallgren would look to man the crease this evening following the news that Petr Mrazek would be out at least six weeks with a lower body injury that he sustained in Boston on Tuesday.

A highlight reel goal from Blake Wheeler for his 12th of the season, followed by a wraparound goal from Paul Stastny, his 18th, would put the Jets 2-0 only eight minutes into the game.

Michael Hutchinson would be called up from the Marlies in relief as Jack Campbell looks set to make a return in the near future, but the Leafs would help Kallgren hold the fort down for the rest of the game.

Mark Giordano would find the back of the net for his first as a Leaf with just under five minutes left in the period. His shot from just beyond the point would deflect off of Brendan Dillion’s skate and past Jets goalie Eric Comrie for his seventh of the season.

Winnipeg would take three of the first four penalties in the game and while the Leafs looked dangerous on their first two attempts, William Nylander would bury a Auston Matthews deflection into the net to tie the game at two just less than two minutes into the second.

Nikolaj Ehlers would put up a power play marker of his own nearly two minutes later to give Winnipeg a 3-2 lead, however this lead would be short-lived.

Less than 30 seconds later, Maple Leaf captain John Tavares would bang home a soft rebound by Comrie to tie the game up. Toronto called up defenceman Carl Dahlstrom on Wednesday following the injury to Ilya Lyubushkin and with his point shot he picks up an NHL point for the first time since he was a Jet in 2019-2020.

After Tavares’ goal the Leafs would score another two goals to finish out the second period.

Nylander got on the board again with another power play marker, just a little under midway through the frame, giving him 26 goals on the season. With his second of three points on the night he surpasses his single season point total with 62 points.

Morgan Rielly would be sent to the box for a trip with just under seven minutes to go, giving the Jets a chance to comeback into the game, but the red hot Leaf penalty kill would make them pay as Ilya Mikayhev would bury a breakaway chance for what seems like an every game occurrence as he picks up his 15th.

With that marker he equals his total goal output across the previous two NHL seasons (8G-39GP in 2019-20, 7G-54GP 2020-21)

Matthews chase for the elusive 50 goal mark has been a long journey. In his young career so far he has reached 30+ goals every year since his debut, including three 40+ goal seasons, but his career high of 47 in 2019-2020 looked to be broken this year as he has been on a tear since the start of that season.

Due to injuries and complications caused through the COVID-19 pandemic, many expected Matthews to eventually reach 50 goals, it just might’ve taken a bit longer than some would have expected, but with just over two minutes left in the game and the Jets net empty, he would slot home his 50th tally of the season joining a short list of Leafs alumni to reach that high honour.

Timothy Liljegren would add an extra insurance marker on a late power play just 20 seconds later for his second of the season, as he has made quite an impression since slotting alongside Mark Giordano.

Winnipeg needs to have a bounce back game on Saturday when they play host to the Kings as they can’t afford to drop many more points in a tight race to the finish with Nashville, Dallas and Vegas all fighting for the two Western wildcard spots and only six points separating them.

Toronto will look to continue their three game win streak when they head to Philadelphia on Thursday to open up a four game road trip which will see them take on both the Lightning and Panthers next week, in what could have drastic playoff implications for all three teams.


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