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Auston Matthews historic in Maple Leafs debut

No. 1 pick has 'surreal' four-goal performance in first NHL game despite loss to Senators

by Chris Stevenson / Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews made history Wednesday by becoming the first player to score four goals in his NHL debut in the modern era.

"It's pretty surreal. I couldn't believe it, what was happening out there," Matthews said after a 5-4 loss in overtime to the Ottawa Senators in the season opener. "Our line was clicking tonight. We were really fortunate. We created a lot of opportunities and we were able to cash in on them. I think every line played well tonight. Every line could have had two or three goals."

So, do you not say anything to him on the bench, leave him alone like a pitcher chasing a no-hitter?

"You tell him to get five," linemate William Nylander said.

Matthews, playing on a line with Nylander and Zach Hyman, had a chance to score his fifth goal in the third period, but had to settle for four.

"How often do you expect the debut guy to score four goals?" Nylander said. "Has it happened before? I don't know. Has it happened? It was a pretty amazing start for him."

Video: TOR@OTT: Matthews bursts onto scene with four goals

Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, scored his four goals in two periods, scoring his fourth with three seconds left in the second period on a 2-on-1 with Nylander.

Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, also making his NHL debut, said he had seen enough of Matthews to expect the unexpected.

"It didn't really surprise me too much," Marner said. "I knew what kind of player he was. He was around the net all night and got rewarded for it. [Nylander] and [Hyman] they got the puck down low and just kept finding him. He was always around and just cleaning it up."

Matthews' most impressive goal might have been his second. He won a battle for the puck against Senators forward Mike Hoffman in the neutral zone, rebuffed a push from Ottawa center Kyle Turris then stripped the puck from Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson along the left wing boards.

Video: TOR@OTT: Matthews discusses record-setting debut

Matthews skated in and scored with a low shot that beat sliding defenseman Marc Methot and Senators goaltender Craig Anderson.

"I've never seen anything like it," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "He's a special player. You see that second goal he scored, not many guys do that. We're fortunate that we have him and yet can be way, way better than we were tonight. We're going to get way better."

Senators coach Guy Boucher coached against Matthews this past season in Switzerland.

"I'm not surprised, I've seen him first hand last year," Boucher said. "I've told everybody he's the real deal. He's the package deal. Nothing surprising in his game. He played with men last year, so he's good right away."

Anderson will go down in history as the goaltender who was the first to give up four goals to a player making his NHL debut.

The goaltender's assessment of Matthews: "He's good. He had a great night as an individual, but as a group we found a way to win. But hats off to him. He was an outstanding player tonight.

"I'll be remembered for one thing, I guess, for a long, long time in Toronto."

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