May 26, 2024

TORONTO — Auston Matthews registered his second hat trick in two games to open the season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Minnesota Wild 7-4 on Saturday night.

William Nylander had two goals and an assist for Toronto, and Ilya Samsonov made 28 saves. Calle Jarnkrok had a goal and an assist, and Tyler Bertuzzi also scored. Mitchell Marner and Morgan Rielly each had two assists.

Matthews is the fifth player in NHL history to open a season with back-to-back hat tricks, joining Alex Ovechkin (2017-18), Cy Denneny (1917-18), Joe Malone (1917-18) and Reg Noble (1917-18).

“I want to play at the highest level that I can every night,” Matthews said after the win. “I’m not really thinking in the past or thinking about years in the past. It’s all about today. Just trying to go out and put in my best effort and do what I can to help the team.”

Matthews now has nine career hat tricks, tied for fifth-most in Maple Leafs history, and he’s the first Toronto player to author consecutive hat tricks since Wendel Clark did so in 1994.

“He’s come in refreshed and healthy,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He’s had a really good offseason. I really don’t think he cares how many goals he gets, he cares about how many wins we get.”

Matt Boldy, Ryan Hartman, Marco Rossi and Brandon Duhaime scored for Minnesota. Filip Gustavsson stopped 26 shots.

Toronto, which posted a 6-5 shootout victory over Montreal in its season opener Wednesday, fell behind at 9:32 of the first period when Hartman tipped a shot past Samsonov.

Matthews then started to take over. The center, who scored a career-high 60 goals when he was the NHL MVP for the 2021-22 season, fired past Gustavsson at 10:54.

Matthews made it 2-1 at 12:35 on a 4-on-3 power play. Matthews’ shot from a sharp angle went in off a Minnesota stick for his fifth goal in four periods.

“You don’t expect back-to-back hat tricks, of course,” Keefe said. “But, I’ve gotten somewhat comfortable and used to Auston having big nights, making a big impact. To do so back-to-back nights to start a season, it’s terrific.”

Nylander then sent a charge through the crowd with a breathtaking individual effort late in the period when he stepped past a couple of defenders and slotted home his second.

“Willy’s goals tonight, Auston’s goals tonight, they give us breathing room to find our game, because we certainly are still finding it,” Keefe said.

Gustavsson, who made 41 saves in a 2-0 victory against Florida on Thursday, allowed Toronto’s fourth of the night when Bertuzzi got his first with the Leafs on another power play at 3:35 of the second.

But the Wild got one back 34 seconds later when Boldy beat Samsonov, and Rossi batted in his first NHL goal at 9:51 to make it 4-3 through 40 minutes.

Samsonov made a terrific save to deny Rossi his second early in the third and Gustavsson denied Matthews on a power play at the other end.

The Leafs went back up by two at 9:54 when Jarnkrok finished off a great pass from Rielly, and Matthews converted a wraparound at 10:25.

“He’s feeling it,” Rielly said of Matthews. “When your guy’s doing that and controlling the game, putting the puck in the net, it gives us a good chance to win.”

Nylander then added his second of the night and third overall off the rush at 12:14.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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