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Matthews scores in OT vs. Blackhawks, wants Maple Leafs to emulate them

Center admires Chicago's championship pedigree

by Mike Zeisberger @zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- While an exuberant Auston Matthews was pumping his fist, Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were slumped over, hanging their heads in exhaustion.

Matthews, the second-year Toronto Maple Leafs center, does not usually show his emotions. He usually lets his performance on the ice do his talking.

But on Monday at Air Canada Centre, he could not help himself after scoring the winning goal in a 4-3 overtime victory against the Blackhawks.


[RELATED: Matthews scores in OT, gives Maple Leafs third straight win]


Matthews says that when he looks over at the Blackhawks bench, he sees the type of successful franchise his Maple Leafs aspire to be. But whenever he is asked about how close Toronto is to achieving that goal, the answer is always the same as the one he gave Monday after the morning skate.

"The difference is," Matthews said, "we haven't won anything yet."

Maybe that's one of the many reasons he was so demonstrative in his celebration after scoring at 3:43 of overtime.

Matthews completed a three-goal comeback for the Maple Leafs, who trailed 3-1 with less than six minutes remaining in the third period.

After goals by Connor Brown and James van Riemsdyk tied the game 3-3, Matthews finished off a 2-on-1 rush in overtime by snapping a shot past Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg.

The ensuing scene was indeed a tale of two teams.

Video: CHI@TOR: Matthews snipes top-shelf OT game-winner

On one side were the up-and-coming Maple Leafs, led Matthews, whose outburst of raw emotion was embraced by the raucous crowd. At the same time, Kane and Toews could only shake their heads. They were both on the ice for the Matthews goal, and in disbelief at how he had just ended the game.

Kane, for one, sees a lot of himself in Matthews. The Blackhawks right wing trained with Matthews in Florida prior to training camp. It was there that his admiration for the young Maple Leafs forward blossomed.

"I'm not just impressed with his shot and pace but also by the way he battles for pucks," Kane said. "I guess the biggest thing you notice is how big he is. He's only [20] years old but he has a man's body. Pretty impressive watching him and skating with him in the summer."

Matthews has similar mutual admiration for Kane and the Blackhawks organization. When asked if he one day would like to be the poster child for American hockey like Kane is now, Matthews said, "Yeah. Of course."

In recent months, Matthews has heard plenty of comparisons between his Maple Leafs and the Blackhawks of 2008-09. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said in March that Toronto's young foundation reminded him of when the Blackhawks, with an emerging nucleus of Kane, Toews and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, were embarking on an impressive run; they made the Western Conference Final in 2009 and went on to win three Stanley Cup championships (2010, 2013, 2015). Chicago has lost in the first round the past two seasons.

"I think where it's gone from last year from the prior year to this year, they definitely have some great players," Quenneville said of the Maple Leafs on Monday. "They have some exciting guys up front. You have the learning curve of playing the right way and learning how to win. That definitely comes from the experience last year of being in the playoffs. They're in a really bright spot. They're a fun team to watch."  

"It's fun being in the situation they're in. But I'm not complaining about the situation we're in."

Quenneville, like Toews and Kane, has three rings with the Blackhawks. Until his Maple Leafs win their first, Matthews will not be satisfied.

 "[The Blackhawks] have been a pretty powerful team the past eight years," Matthews said. "They started with a pretty young core. 

"Year in year out, they've been competitive and won three Stanley Cups. So obviously they've been a good example for us."

Video: Weekes talks about Matthews' OT goal

Toews can see the progress the Maple Leafs are making in that regard. Toronto made the Stanley Cup playoffs last season for the first time in four seasons, losing to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round in six games.

"There's a lot of hope, a lot of talent," Toews said. "And then there's expectations. I think this team probably knows what it's capable of, just rebuilding now and making the playoffs last year."

It was only the Maple Leafs' third game of the season, but Matthews called it a big win because of the quality of the opponent. Translation: If you want to be like the Blackhawks, defeating the Blackhawks is a good start.

Though the season is less than a week old, excitement continues to swell in Toronto about the Maple Leafs. They are 3-0-0 for the first time since 2013-14. The comparisons with the 2008-09 Blackhawks just add fuel to the excitement.

But before things could get out of hand, Matthews was quick to repeat himself.

"We haven't won anything yet," he said.

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