Torontos Auston Matthews scores four times in historic NHL debut

Despite effort, Maple Leafs fall to Senators 5-4 in overtime

Marc DesRosiers—USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs rookiecenter Auston Matthews scored four times Wednesdayin his NHL debut againstthe Ottawa Senatorsat the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime.

OTTAWA — Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris believed his team’s best chance in overtime Wednesday was for him to win the faceoff that started the extra session.He knew it was not a good idea to let Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews touch the puck again.”I emphasized that I’m going to try and win this draw,” said Turris, “so he couldn’t get No. 5.”Turris was successful in taking the drop and just 37 seconds later, he blasted home the decisive goal as Ottawa defeated the Maple Leafs 5-4 in the regular-season opener for both teams at Canadian Tire Centre.But the real story of the night, and perhaps the most impressive exhibition that will come out of the entire NHL season, was the record-establishing performance of Matthews. Not only did the first overall selection in last spring’s draft live up to his billing, but he blew all expectations out of the water.Matthews became the first player to score four goals in his NHL debut, and he completed the feat before the second period was over. Only four others have had a hat trick in their first game.”It’s pretty surreal,” said Matthews, the recently turned 19-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz. “I couldn’t believe it, what was happening out there. Our line was clicking tonight. We were really fortunate. We created a lot of opportunities and we were able to cash in on them.”Matthews never imagined he could make such a big splash in his first NHL game.”No, not like that,” he said. “It’s not something you can write up. It was pretty special having my parents here for them to share the moment with me. It’s definitely really a nice feeling.”At the same time, Matthews blamed himself for the final result, for not just losing the draw but also neglecting to cover Turris as he accepted a pass from Senators winger Mark Stone and blasted a slap shot behind Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen.”That last play was 100 percent my fault,” said Matthews. “We came here to win and we didn’t get that done.”Turris’ goal was his second of the night, as he sent the game into overtime with the only goal of the third period, 13:15 from the final buzzer. Also responding to the Matthews show with goals for the Senators were winger Bobby Ryan, defenseman Erik Karlsson and center Derick Brassard.Karlsson added two assists for a three-point night and finished with eight shots on goal.”It was easy for me to get the shots through,” said Karlsson. “We had good traffic. I didn’t have much to do with any of the goals other than being at the right spot at the right time.”Senators goalie Craig Anderson made 34 saves and noted that the team battled “adversity” to get the win. If adversity is being steamrolled by a teenager, he’s dead on.”I’ll be remembered for one thing, I guess, for a long, long time in Toronto,” Anderson said of being victimized by Matthews. “Great individual effort. He was a great player. We’ve got him what, five or six more times? We’ll figure him out, one of these days.”Also making his debut for the Maple Leafs was Anderson, who stopped 25 shots in the losing cause.”Not good enough,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said in assessing his netminder’s game. “But he’d be the first to tell you that. That might be the most comfortable position on our team, if you’re me. I’m not going to spend any time worrying about that. He’ll get himself going.”Matthews opened the scoring at 8:21 of the first period, with his first shot on goal, then tied the game up after Ryan and Karlsson had put Ottawa in front. That second goal, on his second shot, was pure brilliance.First Matthews stickhandled around Stone and Senators winger Mike Hoffman just outside the Ottawa blue line. Then he stripped the puck from Karlsson — a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman — along the boards before flipping a shot past sliding defenseman Mark Methot and Anderson.”I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Babcock. “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 we can be way, way better than we were tonight. We’re going to get way better.”Saying the same was Guy Boucher, who was also making his debut behind the Senators bench. “In the first period, we saw a lot of the things we don’t want to see, which is normal. We haven’t had a lot of practices. I’m certainly not expecting things to turn around 180 degrees [right away]. We know there’s a process and it’s going to take time.”Boucher, who coached against Matthews in Switzerland last season, was not surprised what he saw from the young man,”I’ve told everybody he’s the real deal, he’s the package deal,” said Boucher. “Nothing surprising in his game. He played with men last year, So he’s good right away.”The Senators play their next game at home Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. The Maple Leafs’ next home game is also Saturday, at home to the Boston Bruins.NOTES: Senators D Thomas Chabot took part in the pregame warmup but, in sticking to the script, was a healthy scratch for the game. The Senators are still deciding whether they’ll keep their 19-year-old first-round pick or send him back to his junior team before the nine-game mark. Chabot’s offensive skills, puck moving ability and skating are unquestioned, but the Senators want to be sure he can play defense at the NHL level. … Senators LW Matt Puempel was also scratched. … The Maple Leafs scratched C Seth Griffith, who they claimed off waivers from the Boston Bruins earlier this week. … Maple Leafs veteran D Roman Polak was also scratched, as was Maple Leafs D Frank Corrado.