Rangers rain on Maple Leafs’ parade as Matthews returns to the lineup

- Advertisement -

Austin Matthews returned to the Maple Leafs lineup on Monday for a hero’s welcome. Scotiabank Arena fans cheered Star Center during the player’s introduction and rejoiced after Toronto won the first two shots against the New York Rangers.

- Advertisement -

The defending NHL goalscorer was ruled out of the first three games while recovering from wrist surgery. He didn’t score in Toronto’s 2-1 overtime defeat but he cranked up the shots all night. In the last five seasons, the 24-year-old had scored nine goals in his first game of the season.

Artemi Panarin followed the game-winner with 1:12 in five minutes of extra time. New York goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin shone brightly in this, giving him only one shot out of 41.


Story continues below ad

Matthews’ teammates were eager to rejoin him and it was easy to see why.

- Advertisement -

“We all know what kind of player he is,” 21-year-old defenseman Rasmus Sandin said in the day. “He can make a huge difference for us. In practice he looks as incredible as ever. Actually nothing has changed. He looks more than ready. “

It took very little time for Mathews to make an appearance. He barely missed a long, hard wrist shot less than two minutes into the game, and then followed him after 10 seconds.

“I wish he hadn’t come back tonight,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said before the morning skate. “He’s one of the top players in the game. Hopefully he’ll be a bit curvy but I don’t expect it.

There wasn’t much rust to see. Mathews took 16 shots in the evening, of which eight were in the net. He also made a brilliant pass behind his back to set up a dangerous shot on goal.

Mathews said on Sunday that it was a difficult decision to bench himself to start the year but just need a little more time to recover.

“I felt great last week,” Mathews said on Sunday. “I was itching to go in but it was good to be patient and make sure I felt confident. And I absolutely do. I’m pumping Not much fun to watch.”

Story continues below ad

Mathews led the team with 10 shots taken in the first two periods. He finished his 11th in third after a turnover in front of the New York Nets but was pulled away by Shesterkin. The Rangers goalkeeper was brilliant throughout.

He kept his team in the game even though it played for a long time. The game was tied 1-1 after 40 minutes but Toronto beat their opponents 29-12. It eventually took a 41-23 lead.

Mika Zibnejad put Rangers 1-0 ahead with a tight 42-foot wrist shot that left Jack Campbell with 6:11 in the first period. It was the first goal of the season to go with four assists for the Swedish centre. A minute earlier, Campbell had dismissed a dangerous backhand from Julian Gauthier.

Toronto tied it on a fine goal by their first-year forward Michael Bunting. The left winger won a fight in the left side of the net and passed it to Shesterkin in 1 minute 36 seconds in the third period. This was Bunting’s second goal in the last two matches.

The competition pitted the two original six franchises against each other. It was the first time a US team visited the Scotiabank Arena for regular season games since March 10, 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been a long time,” Toronto captain John Tavares said in the day. He went head-to-head 15-4 in the defeat. “You have to re-acquaint yourself with some of the teams and players.”

Story continues below ad

Campbell, who had intercepted 61 of 63 shots in two starts and made a relief appearance at the start of the year, put up another strong performance. He wasn’t particularly engaged until the very end, with his fans shouting “soup” every now and then, especially during a frantic overtime session. He made 21 saves.

The Maple Leafs fell 2-1-1. Rangers have the same record. Toronto’s next game is against the San Jose Sharks at home on Friday night.

The best news for the Maple Leafs was that Mathews looked comfortable and confident in his return. Not only did he dominate the offense but he also won 13 out of 15 faceoffs.

“it is too big [to have him back],” Coach Sheldon Keefe already said. “He is one of the best players in the world. It’s been tough not having him in the games, because you see how effective and effective he is in practice.”


- Advertisement -
Mail Us For  DMCA / Credit  Notice

Recent Articles

Stay on top - Get the daily news in your inbox

Related Stories