Auston Matthews isn’t letting Alex Ovechkin slip away in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Matthews pulled alongside Ovechkin atop the NHL’s goals list with a second-period snipe for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, with both men now sitting on 40 goals for the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs star scored his team’s third of the night against the visiting Anaheim Ducks, and it was a vintage Matthews goal that gave him the milestone.
After a Ducks turnover at their own blue line, the Leafs duo of John Tavares and Mitch Marner quickly rushed into the offensive zone with the puck. A clever bit of interplay between Marner and Tavares threw the Ducks’ defense into disarray, allowing a trailing Matthews to blast a one-timer from one knee past Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller.
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Friday’s tally means Matthews has matched his single-season career high set in his rookie season. What makes the feat unique is that Matthews only has two hat tricks in his career — one in each of his 40-goal campaigns.
Contrast that to Ovechkin, who has notched three hat tricks since Jan. 16, and it demonstrates just how consistent a scorer Matthews has already proven to be less than four full seasons into his NHL tenure.
Matthews has now scored in five of his last six games, and hasn’t gone longer than two games without a goal since a five-game drought that ended Dec. 4. It’s a testament to how good a season he’s having — Matthews also notched assist Nos. 26, 27 and 28 against the Ducks on Friday — and he’ll need to maintain that consistency if he’s to hold off the likes of Ovechkin and Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak for the league’s scoring crown.