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Auston Matthews puts debut 'in the past'

Maple Leafs rookie looking ahead after record-breaking four-goal game

by David Alter / Correspondent

TORONTO -- You can't fault Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews if the adrenaline from his NHL debut had not worn off before he went to sleep.

"A little bit," Matthews said. "It took me a bit of time to settle down and get to bed, but once I did it was all good and here for practice in the morning."

It was a record-breaking debut for Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He scored four goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. No player in the modern era had ever scored four goals in his first NHL game.

But it's just another day for Matthews, who was quick to put the focus back on preparing for his second NHL game, against the Boston Bruins at Air Canada Centre on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, NESN).

"It's pretty special," Matthews said. "The first game is always a memorable one. I think last night was definitely something I'll remember for the rest of my life. That's in the past now and we have a big home opener on Saturday, so we'll get focused for that now."

Matthews earned praise from family, friends, and current and former NHL players, for his performance. One that stood out was a tweet from retired forward Daniel Briere.

Tweet from @DannyBriere48: Wow. Absolutely incredible. Congrats #AM34

"That was the most special," Matthews said. "He was one of my childhood idols growing up, and getting a shout out from him was pretty nice."

Matthews' teammates were still captivated one day later.

"You're playing with him, and then the first goal goes in and then the second and third, and you are like … What is happening?" said forward William Nylander, who assisted on two of the four goals.

"When you have that much regular-season success together in your first game, it's pretty special," forward Zach Hyman said. "Playing with Auston, he just does things that most guys can't do and he's able to make plays, I just tried to make more space for him."

Matthews has filled the fan base in Toronto with optimism. For the average person, the high praise could quickly get into a 19-year-old's head, but Matthews has demonstrated he's mature enough to handle what's been thrown at him.

Video: Auston Matthews makes history in NHL debut

Coach Mike Babcock has helped him stay grounded.

"I tell them not to listen to you guys," Babcock said. "I'm not trying to be [rude]. There's a lot of information in that room coming in, and we live in an information world and have their phone in their hand every second. No matter how much you tell them to listen to country music and watch the hunting channel, they're not going to do that.

"But the reality is there are four, five or six people in your life that really care about you that, the rest is just noise. As long as you understand that, if you're lucky and you have a good family and support, you won't be worry about those other things."

Matthews has all four pucks as a keepsake. They are going to the people who matter the most to him in his life, his family.

"I'll probably give them to my mom [Ema]," he said. "She'll probably do something with them; she usually does."

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