The NHL.com headline for the game was “Auston Matthews scores four goals, Maple Leafs lose”, and really that sums up the entire game. It was a whirlwind of emotion for the new hotness, setting an NHL debut record but ultimately losing. In the end, as a Senators fan, I’m happy that they didn’t win, so maybe the Sens can live this down a little bit in future games against the Leafs.
The game started exactly the way I expected: a shift counter for Mitch Marner’s first NHL shift. Then the same thing for Auston Matthews. If you’d happened to forget the Maple Leafs are the CBC’s favourite team by a nautical mile, you remembered in a hurry. Thankfully, the commentators also threw us a bone by referring to noted winger “John van Riemsdyk”. And it wasn’t even Bob Cole!
The Sens looked sloppy early, and the Leafs looked threatening. Marner almost made every Sens fan’s worst nightmare come true when he got a breakaway early, but thankfully he missed. Unthankfully (disthankfully?) Matthews put home a shot from the slot after a crease scramble to make everyone in hockey happy. The Sens would get a little reprieve with Erik Karlsson setting up a pair goals - Bobby Ryan tucked home a Karlsson rebound in the crease, and then a Leafs defender tipped a Karlsson shot top-corner. Matthews would then restore order to hockeydom by going through half the Sens team to score a beautiful goal for the second of his career (and the period). As nice as his moves were, I have to give some of the goal credit to Craig Anderson for not ever getting square to Matthews, despite the fact that he was the only player in the zone. The teams would then trade unsuccessful powerplays to end the period, which finished 2-2.
The first period also featured an early hit by Chris Neil on Matt Hunwick. Hunwick’s head hit the glass first, he was bleeding, and he did not return to the game. It was never officially called a concussion, but was likely the first use of the NHL’s new concussion spotter protocol.
The first intermission featured a nice video plea by Auston’s father Brian (Matthews) to the city of Toronto to love his son as much as he (Auston) loves them. It seemed a little hokey to me, even for a 1st-overall pick, but I guess this is the first thing Toronto’s had to be excited about in a long time.
The second period opened exactly the way you knew it would: with Matthews scoring a goal, to be the fifth player ever to score a hat-trick in his NHL debut. And essentially that would do it for the second. The Sens would spend half the period on the PK, but nothing happened on the scoresheet until they were down to just two minutes in the period. Late in the period, Derick Brassard skated the length of the ice holding off Martin Marincin before stuffing the puck five-hole on Andersen. It was a goal both of those Leafs would want back. But before they could think about it much, Mike Hoffman came roaring in and backhanded it off the crossbar.
And just when you thought you were safe, Matthews got a 2-on-1 with William Nylander with 10 seconds to go and made no mistake on Nylander’s dish. He became the first player to score four goals in his NHL debut ever. The period ended with the score Matthews 4, Sens 3.
The third period went a little better for the Sens, in that they managed to tie up the score. Kyle Turris went in hard on Marincin on the forecheck, forcing him into just sending it around the boards. Mark Stone intercepted, and hit Turris in front where he beat Andersen over his left shoulder. The Leafs wanted icing on the play, but the puck was too slow and the refs ruled Marincin should’ve been able to play it before the red line. That would do it for scoring in regulation, so the game went to overtime.
OT was a lot of fun as a Sens fan, as Turris-Stone-Karlsson held possession for the entire time. They opened the period, played keep-away, and then eventually Turris got the shot he wanted, right in the middle of the slot. He buried his second of the night, and the Sens got a hard-fought win.
Sens Hero: Kyle Turris
Scoring two goals will get you hero status, especially when they were the final two goals of an overtime win.
Sens Hero: Mark Stone
Stone’s speed and hands were on display to full effect in this game, leading directly to the game-tying goal in the third period.
Honourable Mention: Erik Karlsson
He “only” put up three points in this game. He also finished with eight shots on goal. In a game in which the Sens were pretty badly outshot (38-30), Karlsson at least finished with the majority of shots on goal while he was on the ice. It might be petty, but I have a hard time giving him a full hero nod after he got walked by Matthews for a goal. Still, if King Karl can put up three points in a game, the Sens will have a good chance of winning those games.
Dishonourable Mention: Craig Anderson
He just seemed a little... off. From not squaring up to Matthews’ second goal, to giving up lots of rebounds, to losing track of far too many pucks, he seemed a little rusty. Hopefully that was a just a first-game-jitters thing, or this could be a very tough season.
Sens Killer: Auston Matthews
Did you know he scored four goals? Did you know it was his first NHL game? Did you know that’s never been done before? Just thought you should know.