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Auston Matthews, Shane Doan have unforgettable night

Maple Leafs rookie wins in return home; Coyotes captain scores 400th NHL goal

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Where do you begin on a night like this, a once-in-a-lifetime night for Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan, for the local teenager who has become an inspiration to all hockey-playing kids in the desert and the 40-year-old who has been the ambassador for the sport here for two decades.

Do you start with warm-ups, when Matthews, the 19-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona native playing in his first NHL game in his home state, was greeted by eight kids standing at the glass wearing Arizona Bobcats jerseys, which Matthews used to wear when he played for the minor hockey program, holding up a sign that read "Matthews is my Bobcat brother?"

"That was awesome," Matthews said following Toronto's 4-1 win at Gila River Arena on Friday.

Do you start with the opening faceoff, which Matthews took against Doan, one of his childhood idols? Doan won the draw and later scored his 400th career goal in what was his 1,500th career NHL game, all with the same franchise.

"It's that part of the game that makes it pretty special," Matthews said.

One could start with Matthews' second shift, when he took advantage of a Coyotes turnover at the blue line, brilliantly kept the puck in the zone and hit Connor Brown in stride with a perfect pass to set up the first goal of the game at 3:04.

Video: TOR@ARI: Doan nets 400th career goal in 1,500th game

Then again, what about starting at 19:16 of the second period, when Doan scored his 400th off a pass from defenseman Connor Murphy? Matthews had a great view of it as he trailed the play. If this were a year ago, he would have cheered.

"It would have been nice if I wasn't on the ice for that one," Matthews said, "but really happy for him obviously."

Or do you start at 7:34 of the third period, when the Coyotes showed another appreciation video of Doan, a tearjerker filled with pictures of the captain and his fans complete with voices from many acknowledging what he means to them?

So many moments, so many emotions. Odds are Matthews and Doan won't forget about any of them, or the result.

"It was special," Matthews said. "Coming home and playing in front of the home crowd, playing where I grew up, it's definitely a pretty special moment. To get the two points, to get the win, definitely kind of puts the cherry on top."

Matthews and Doan weren't immune to what was going on all around them and this game, which was actually more of an event here for the local hockey community.

First off, Matthews knew of the milestones Doan was approaching and had a special appreciation for them because he has gotten to know Doan and has skated with him over the past few summers. A poster of Doan used to hang on Matthews' bedroom wall.

"He's been such an amazing not only hockey player for this team, but in the community," Matthews said. "Obviously you see in the intermission breaks the people he touches and affects. It just shows you how much more it is to him not only to be a hockey player, but just an amazing person in the community."

Doan knew how special Matthews' homecoming was for the Valley's hockey community because he's as big a part of it as anyone as the captain of the NHL team and a hockey dad and coach to his 14-year-old son Josh, who is inspired as much by his father now as Matthews.

"I think he's so much more than any Coyote will be because he's from here and that represents so much more for the grassroots people," Doan said. "I think Max Domi, our young guys, are incredible young guys and they're going to represent the Coyotes incredibly, but having somebody that is born and raised in the state is always special."

Video: TOR@ARI: Matthews' parents on return to home state

Matthews knew he had dozens of family members in attendance, including his grandparents, who were watching him in the NHL for the first time. He knew that hundreds of local youth hockey players were here too, the players who see him as their role model in the way Doan was his role model when he was in those kids' shoes.

His family contingent was there to hug him outside the Maple Leafs dressing room following the game, but Matthews made them wait after he showered and got dressed because he went back on the ice to take a picture with Domi and close to 500 youth hockey players from the area.

"We got here at 5:45 and the lines were way out there with kids," said Pat Mahan, a close friend of the Matthews family who used to coach Auston in the Bobcats program. "For me, that's what Auston has done here."

Matthews knows it, yet he still managed to stay stoic throughout the entire day. He said he would try to treat this as a normal game. In the end, he said he did, free of nerves too.

"I just wanted to come in and play," Matthews said.

Doan did too, even though he also knew this wasn't just any other game for him. It turned out to be a special night as well; he became the 93rd player to score 400 NHL goals, and did so in the game he became the 17th player to play in 1,500 games.

"An unbelievable accomplishment for him," Matthews said.

The only thing that would have been better for Matthews is if he would have scored too. He had chances, including one off of a redirection of Brown's pass 2-on-1 at 13:10 of the second period. Mike Smith made a sliding right pad save to deny him. He finished with three shots on goal.

"We won," Matthews said. "That's the most important part. That's definitely what I'll remember."

That's as good a place to start as any.

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