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Apr 10, 2024 3:35 pm

Auston Matthews hunts history in rematch vs. Devils

Devils, Auston matthews

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will continue his pursuit of history Thursday night in a rematch against the visiting New Jersey Devils.

Matthews scored his 66th goal in Toronto’s 5-2 road victory over the Devils on Tuesday.

Matthews, who extended his goal streak to six games (seven goals), passed Alex Ovechkin (65 goals in 2007-08) for the most goals in a season by an active player.

“It’s cool (to pass Ovechkin). He’s obviously who he is and what he’s done for the game and what he’s accomplished,” Matthews said. “It’s an honor to be in the same sentence with him.”

Matthews became the first player to score at least 66 goals in a season since Mario Lemieux scored 69 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96. Maple Leafs players are excited about his chances of reaching 70 goals, not accomplished since 1992-93 (Alexander Mogilny, Teemu Selanne).

“I think the process is the same every night,” Matthews said. “I find when you really overthink it and want it too much, it almost doesn’t go your way. Obviously, you want to make sure, individually and as a team, you’re doing the right things night in and night out on both sides of the puck that will translate well in the postseason.”

Toronto (46-23-9) has four games left in the regular season.

The goal gave Matthews a 12-game point streak (11 goals, 11 assists) and 16 goals in 17 career games against the Devils (37-37-5, 79 points).

The setback damaged the Devils’ dwindling playoff hopes with three games left.

“I think this has been one of those seasons where there’s been high expectations and things don’t go the way you want,” New Jersey interim coach Travis Green said. “It’s different when you have a veteran team and young team, and you’ve also got a lot of people, key players injured all year. I believe there’s a process to everything.

“Our process really hasn’t changed from Day 1. It’s been about how we improve as a group and how do we win more consistently than we have. It’s installing some of my beliefs.”

New Jersey announced Tuesday that forward Jack Hughes will undergo shoulder surgery in Colorado and miss the remainder of the season.

“I just think with where we’re at this time, it’s time to shut him down,” Green said. “It’s no secret he’s been struggling a little bit, but kudos to him to continue to play and try to help this team get into the playoffs.”

Tyler Bertuzzi had two goals (one empty net) and an assist for Toronto.

“I think (Bertuzzi is) playing with more confidence,” Matthews said. “I think he’s a super guy to play with, works hard in the corners. Between me, Bertuzzi and (Max) Domi, we try to hunt pucks, create turnovers and attack the other way, so it’s been a lot of fun to play with those guys.”

Toronto is trying to set the tone for the playoffs.

“For us as a team, we needed to come together a little more with four games left and keep up the consistency in getting ready for the playoffs,” Bertuzzi said. “We have to have that playoff mindset and play these last four games like it’s playoff hockey.”

–Field Level Media

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