TORONTO — Auston Matthews scored his 59th and 60th NHL goals of the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 on Tuesday night to secure the home advantage in the first round of the playoffs Stanley Cup playoffs.
The 24-year-old American, who ended a five-game drought, is the first player to score 60 times in a campaign since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12.
But Matthews has made it clear throughout the season that these Maple Leafs have bigger and better plans than the regular season stats, and during his post-game media availability he stuck to his strategy.
“The work is not finished,” he said simply. “The job is not done.”
John Tavares had the other goal and Jack Campbell made 20 saves to record his fifth shutout of the season for Toronto (53-21-7), which set a franchise record with its 30th home win of the season. William Nylander added two assists.
The Leafs are now locked into the second seed in the Atlantic Division and will open the playoffs next week at Scotiabank Arena against the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning.
Matthews, who went on loan for his third game in a row after missing three in a row with an undisclosed injury, had a number of good looks in the first 35 minutes of the game before finally resolving Nedeljkovic with 4:12 to go in the second period.
“It’s special, it’s unique, it’s rare. I’m just very happy for him,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “You know the abilities he has, but he works extremely hard at his game, off the ice he takes his craft very seriously. To see him at the top of his game and hitting those milestones is exceptional.”
With the Leafs in the middle of a line change, Jason Spezza fed Matthews up front before edging past the Detroit guard and slipping home to No. 59 before the chants of “MVP!” echoed around Scotiabank Arena.
“It’s unreal,” team captain Tavares said of Matthews’ season.
And after Tavares doubled the Leafs’ lead at 4:03 of the third with his 27th, Matthews made history by burying number 60 on a power play at 5:49 when he saved the puck at the offensive blue line before tearing up a shot. passed Nedeljkovic’s gauntlet to send the crowd into another frenzy.
Matthews’ teammates gave him a standing ovation on the bench, while some fans threw hats on the ice in honor of the achievement.
“It was pretty special, honestly. The reception from my teammates, the crowd, everything,” Matthews said. “Sends shivers down your bones. Kinda hard to put into words, you know?”
The competition will be much tougher next week as Matthews and Toronto try to get past the elusive first round. The Lightning are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, and the Bruins rebounded from a slow start to reach the top 100 in points. Both teams won on Tuesday night and together they are responsible for the last three Eastern Conference titles.
The Maple Leafs host the Bruins on Friday night in the regular season finale for both clubs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.