TORONTO (AP)Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 40th goal of the season to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old from Arizona reached 40 goals for the third time in five seasons.
”It means a lot,” Matthews said. ”It’s a team sport, so there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Matthews has scored 40 times in 49 games, and has found the back of the net in five straight contests. He also has a five-game goal streak against Montreal.
”It’s incredible,” Toronto captain John Tavares said. ”He makes it look so easy. It’s unreal to watch. It’s a testament to him and his work ethic. At this level, in this league, it’s extremely hard to score. To do it as often as he does, as consistent as he is, and as dominant as he is, it’s extremely impressive.”
Only one player in Maple Leafs history has reached 40 goals in fewer games, with Frank Mahovlich hitting the mark in 48 games in 1960-61. The 23-year-old Matthews also has the most goals through 49 games of a campaign since Pavel Bure scored 40 in 48 back in 1999-00 with the Florida Panthers.
”He’s come in, I think, on a mission,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. ”He’s put in such great work defensively away from the puck that you want to see him reach the goals he has for himself. And they’re lofty goals, but clearly he keeps setting the bar even higher.”
Mitch Marner and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist, Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre Engvall also scored and Jack Campbell made 20 saves. Campbell improved to 16-2-2, giving him the most wins by Toronto goalie through 20 games in a season.
”It’s pretty cool,” Campbell said. ”It just speaks volumes of how well our team’s playing.”
Cole Caufield and Artturi Lehkonen scored for Montreal. Cayden Primeau allowed four goals on 15 shots in the opening 20 minutes before being replaced by Jake Allen to start the second. Allen made 19 saves.
”They just jumped all over us,” Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot said. ”We were slow out of the gate.”
The Maple Leafs improved to 6-2-1 against the Canadiens. The teams will conclude the two-game set and season series Saturday night in Toronto.