Matthews scores his 60th, Maple Leafs clinch home ice with shutout win against Red Wings

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Sixty goals. 

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Auston Matthews, you’ve made history. 

The Maple Leafs superstar became the first National Hockey League player in 10 years to score 60 goals in a season, hitting the mark with a typically terrific shot. 

Matthews’ milestone goal came at 5:49 of the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night. 

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After cradling the puck along the blue line, Matthews skated into the slot and fired a shot over the left shoulder of Detroit goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on a Toronto power play. 

The Leafs beat the Wings 3-0, clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Matthews, who earlier this season broke Rick Vaive’s record for most goals in a Leafs season, is the first player since Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011-12 to score 60. 

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Fans, numbering 18,107, immediately rose as one for a standing ovation. Chants of “MVP! MVP!” grew louder. And there were some hats thrown on the ice, though it was Matthews’ second goal of the night. 

On Tuesday morning, Matthews was asked about the possibility of scoring 60.

“It would mean a lot,” Matthews said. “I’ve had some really good opportunities of late but the puck hasn’t gone in. As long as I’m getting those opportunities, I know they’ll fall. 

“It’s also not the end of the world (if it doesn’t happen). There’s more to this season than accomplishing that, but there’s nothing in this season that I care about (more than winning).”

The Leafs had their fingers crossed that Matthews would score his 60th.

“No doubt we want to see it,” Leafs captain John Tavares said in the morning. “He’s in that position because of the way he has approached it and the way he continues to work at his game, his consistency and the diligence that he puts in.”

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Jack Campbell made 20 saves for his fifth shutout of the season.

Tavares gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead at 4:03 of the third when he tapped a William Nylander pass into an open net.

Matthews broke a Leafs record with the shot on goal that resulted in his 59th goal.

Heading into the game, Matthews needed six shots on goal to break the team mark held by Darryl Sittler for one season.

Sittler had 346 shots on goal in 1975-76, a record that fell when Matthews went to his backhand to beat Nedeljkovic at 15:48 of the second period. 

That was Matthews’ sixth shot on goal of the game. 

Matthews was all over the puck from the opening faceoff. That’s nothing new, mind you, but there was something a little extra in Matthews’ step. He had four shots on goal in the first period, and the only question was when he would get one to fall. 

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That happened on a fine feed from Jason Spezza, who passed to Matthews in front of the Detroit net. Matthews made a quick move and slipped the puck past Nedeljkovic. 

It was the 995th point of Spezza’s NHL career. Colin Blackwell also had an assist, his first in 18 games with the Leafs since he was acquired from the Seattle Kraken.

Asked whether he planned to use Campbell in the regular-season finale against Boston as well, Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said that had not yet been determined. 

“We’ll have a conversation with Jack based on how he’s feeling,” Keefe said. “We think there is enough gap between the (final) two (games) that it’s a possibility. It’s not something I’m against. 

“All I’m focused on is making sure Jack is feeling really good going into Game 1.”

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Defenceman Jake Muzzin was back in the Leafs lineup after missing the past six games with an undisclosed injury. 

Since returning on April 5 from his second concussion this season, Muzzin had played in just four games.

Whether the defence group that Keefe used will be the one that plays in Game 1 of the playoffs may or may not be up for debate. It didn’t include Justin Holl, who is second among Leafs D-men in ice time on the penalty kill. 

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The pairs were Morgan Rielly-Ilya Lyubushkin; Muzzin-TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano-Timothy Liljegren. The play of Liljegren has been a revelation and there is no reason to exclude him from the opening lineup. The argument could be made that Holl would stay in the lineup for his work on the penalty kill. On Tuesday, Keefe used Muzzin and Brodie, and Giordano and Liljegren on the kill.

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