April 25th, 2024

Matthews scores twice to reach 57 goals this season, Maple Leafs rout Capitals 7-3

By Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press on March 20, 2024.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 56th and 57th goals of the season and matched his career high with five points, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 7-3 rout of the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night despite Alex Ovechkin moving closer to Wayne Gretzky.

Ovechkin scored goals 844 and 845 of his career to move 50 back of breaking Gretzky’s record that long seemed unapproachable. He’s now at 23 this season after scoring 15 goals since Jan. 22 to make up for just eight in his first 43 games.

But even on a vintage night for Ovechkin, he took a back seat to Matthews’ pursuit of 70 this season. Matthews scoring twice – with a third, would-be hat trick goal called back on a coach’s challenge for offside – put him eight away from tying Ovechkin’s career-best season of 65 from 2007-08, which is the highest since the league’s salary-cap era began in 2005.

And while Ovechkin and Matthews combined for four goals in a showcase of the best scorer of this generation and perhaps his successor, they were far from the only ones lighting the lamp. Connor McMichael also scored for Washington, and William Nylander, Jake McCabe, Bobby McMann, Tyler Bertuzzi and John Tavares had Toronto’s other goals.

As part of a high-event, quick scoring hockey game that was not friendly to the goaltenders, Joseph Woll made 18 saves in net for the Leafs and Charlie Lindgren made 22 for the Capitals, who failed to move back into a playoff position with their winning streak ending at three. They sit one point back of Detroit for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Caps lost while playing without injured winger T.J. Oshie and forward Aliaksei Protas. Toronto enforcer Ryan Reaves was also out after being poked in the right eye during a fight Tuesday night in Philadelphia, while veteran defenceman T.J. Brodie was a healthy scratch.

UP NEXT

Maple Leafs: Host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.

Capitals: Face longtime centre Evgeny Kuznetsov for the first time Friday night when he and the Carolina Hurricanes visit.

___

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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