Fantasy Hockey

Matthews scores the 60th goal of the season for the Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews became the first American-born player in NHL history to score 60 goals in a season when he scored two for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 3-0 win over the Red Wings of Detroit at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Tuesday.

“It was pretty special,” Matthews said. “Just the reception from my team-mates, the crowd, everything, it sends shivers down your spine, but it’s a little hard to put into words.

“It means a lot. How close we are in this dressing room. It’s like a family in there, a brotherhood, so it means a lot just to have their support and just the reaction from them, that’s all. in regards to.”

The 24-year-old center, born in San Ramon, Calif., is the first NHL player to reach this milestone in a decade. Steven Stamkos scored 60 for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011-12.

Matthews scored the 59th goal at 15:48 of the second period in front of a pass from Jason Spezza from behind the net. It was Matthews’ first goal in six games, ending his longest drought of the season.

Video: [email protected]: Matthews performs an opening backhand for his 59th

He scored the 60th goal at 5:49 of the third period on the power play from the high slot.

“It’s special, it’s unique, it’s rare. I’m just very happy for him,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He works extremely hard. You know his ability, but he works extremely hard in his game. He works extremely hard off the ice. He takes his craft very seriously, so to see him at the top of his game hitting those milestones, it’s is exceptional.”

With the win, the Maple Leafs clinched second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice for the Eastern Conference’s first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They will face either the Lightning or the Boston Bruins.

“It’s extremely difficult to do, obviously,” Stamkos said on Tuesday. “He makes it look like it’s pretty easy with the way he can shoot the puck and score goals. He probably took it a bit close to the wire for his comfort. … Amazing player, amazing scorer and a guy who’s going to score a lot more in this league. Looks like we can see that in a week so we’re going to have our work cut out, but obviously a milestone for a really good player.

Matthews passed Rick Vaive for the most single-season goals in Maple Leafs history when he scored 55th in a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars on April 7. He then scored the 56th in overtime of the same game to set the record for most goals in a season by an American-born player in NHL history, passing Kevin Stevens (1992-93 with the Penguins of Pittsburgh) and Jimmy Carson (1987-88 with the Los Angeles Kings).

He scored two goals in his next game against the Montreal Canadiens on April 9. Matthews didn’t score in the next three games, then missed three games with an undisclosed injury before returning Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. He didn’t score Sunday against the Washington Capitals.

Matthews is the 21st player in the NHL, and the third active, to score at least 60 goals in a season. Other active players to do so are Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin capitals (65 in 2007-08).

Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky share the NHL record for most seasons of 60 goals with five each.

“Pretty unreal”, captain of the Maple Leafs John Tavares mentioned. “Obviously a huge amount of love from the fans and a great way to do it, a beautiful goal. … I know I’m biased, but for me (the Hart Trophy race as a player most useful in the NHL) isn’t closing. Just the way he does it, the way he does it, the consistency, some of the things he’s done, you keep shaking your head sometimes. Just his ability to stay with that and play his game and stay focused on what he’s doing. He just wants to be a game that makes a difference.”

NHL.com Independent Correspondents Dave McCarthy and Corey Long contributed to this report.