Auston Matthews proved once again why he is one of the most dangerous and dynamic players in the NHL when he returned to the Maple Leafs lineup on Monday night.
In his first game of the season after recovering from wrist surgery on Aug. 13, Matthews was a factor in the offensive zone throughout the game and helped the Leafs earn a point against the New York Rangers, who won. 2-1 in overtime at Scotiabank. Sand.
Matthews had eight shots on goal and 16 shot attempts, including two incredible chances in the extra period. Reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s top scorer returned seamlessly to his role as the team’s best player.
He had two glorious chances to score in overtime, one on a rebound, but failed to convert.
“My eyes definitely lit up with that bounce … yeah, I’d like to get that one back,” Matthews said after the game.
After Artemi Panarin beat Jack Campbell from the right circle head-to-head for the winner, Matthews hung from the edge of the boards in frustration.
The Leaf’s front-line center passed all other tests. His elite shooting, skating, puck handling and two-way play were evident. He also contributed to the power play, which has been a focal point for the club after a disastrous last two months with the man advantage last season. Matthews’ first two shots came on a first quarter power play, and the Leafs controlled the puck well three times during the first two quarters.
Rangers goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin made the difference. The Leafs didn’t beat him until the second period, when Michael Bunting crashed the net and hit a Morgan Reilly shot the rest of the way to tie the game 1-1, after New York’s Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring in the first period. . . It was Bunting’s second goal of the season and 13th in 30 career NHL games.
With Matthews back, the Leafs controlled the puck as they have for the past three seasons. At the end of the second period, they had an advantage of more than three minutes in possession time.
In the end, Matthews had to feel good about his return performance despite failing to score. Toronto outshot New York 40-21, including a 17-2 lead in the second period, and Matthews was in good scoring position on all eight shots on target.
His next goal will be No. 200 as Leaf and tying Charlie Conacher for 13th on the franchise list. Syl Apps is ranked 12th with 201.
Matthews scored just one goal in his first four games a year ago before leading the league with 41 in 52 games.
John Tavares assisted in Bunting’s goal for his 200th point as Leaf.
The top line of Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nick Ritchie got their first regular season look, after Marner and Ritchie stayed off the roster in the first week.
Marner, who also sees time to kill penalties, is second on the Leafs in ice time at 21:25 per game, but posted only one assist after three games.
Richie scored three goals in the preseason and seemed willing to complement his linemates with his size and control, but it didn’t make sense for the first three games.
Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe dropped Ritchie from the top line in the third period of Monday night’s game, putting William Nylander in his place as the club looked to break a 1-1 tie.
It was another successful night at the showdown point for Leafs offseason acquisition David Kämpf, who now has more than 60 percent of the season in draws.
Campbell wasn’t as busy as Shesterkin, but he made a few key stops in the third period to help earn a point.
Leafs fans greeted him again with “Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” cheers, borrowing his nickname Soupy.
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