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Flames impressed with Matthews' debut

Flames players talk about Auston Matthew's impressive, four-goal NHL debut

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames saw it.

The season kick-off between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators was on in the room as the Flames were gearing up for their own opening tilt against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

One.

Then two.

Then three.

And, yes, a fourth from Auston Matthews.

Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, became the first player in the modern era to score four goals in his NHL debut when the Maple Leafs lost to the Senators 5-4 in overtime at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday.

"We had the game on in the room there watching," Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. "It seemed like every shift he went out there he was going to score. We were just hoping he was going to get that fifth and wondering if they had that Safeway $1,000,000 (Score & Win) prize in Ottawa or Toronto.

"There's no way that has ever been done before … four in your first game.

"It must've been cool for him."

Before netting his fourth at 19:57 of the second period, Matthews had already become the fourth player since 1943-44 to score three goals in his first NHL game, joining Alex Smart of the Montreal Canadiens in 1943, Real Cloutier of the Quebec Nordiques in 1979, Fabian Brunnstrom of the Dallas Stars in 2008, and Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers in 2010.

Joe Malone (Canadiens) and Harry Hyland (Montreal Wanderers) each scored five goals in their NHL debuts in 1917, but had played previously in the National Hockey Association -- the predecessor of the NHL.

"It's definitely a pretty amazing feat, especially in your first game," said Flames centre Sam Bennett, who himself netted a four-goal game as a rookie in a 6-0 win against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 14, 2016 -- his 42nd career NHL regular season game. 

"It was incredible. Good for him."

At the time, Bennett became the third-youngest player, at 19 years and 207 days, in NHL history to record four goals in a single game behind Washington Capitals forward Bobby Carpenter, at 18 years, 227 days (Feb. 25, 1982 against the St. Louis Blues) and Toronto forward Jack Hamilton at 18 years, 185 days (Dec. 4, 1943 against the New York Rangers).

Matthews turned 19 years old on Sept. 17. 

"Your confidence is at an all-time high," Bennett said. "Just for me, it felt like everything I shot was going in. Every move I made I did it with so much confidence. I felt like I could make any play. When you're able to get those ones early it just helps you so much for the rest of the game. 

"My four-goal game helped me for the next little while. It gave me that much confidence. You don't think about it. You just keep playing. It helps you play with a lot more confidence.

"We'll have to wait and see. I'd imagine he's going to keep playing well.

"It'll help his game."

Based on the first one, Matthews might not need any additional assistance.

One of his former teammates can attest.

"If there's a guy to do it, it's him," said Matthew Tkachuk, who skated on a line with Matthews as members of the United States National Team Development Program two seasons ago, and again at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship last winter.

"He's an unbelievable player.

"He was unbelievable last night."

A night that will raise expectations on the budding Maple Leafs forward.

But that's not new for Matthews.

It might not even be possible.

"I think the expectations are already high on a guy who goes first overall," Giordano said. "I think it goes the other way now, though. You get four in that first one … he gets it right of the bat and gets those goals, he can take a breath.

"If he didn't get one for the first two or three games, then it's a lot tougher. The expectations are always going to be there. He's a special player. You can see it right away. Now I think he goes two or three or four, even, a stretch he doesn't score, it's not as big of a deal because he already has four."

He has the four.

A fond memory, too.

And a spot in the history books. 

"It was cool to watch," Giordano said. "We watched the first couple periods there in the room. It seemed like every shift he was getting chances and creating.

"To get four … that's pretty cool for your first one."

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