Auston Matthews breaks Toronto Maple Leafs’ record; sets mark for most goals in season by US-born player

Auston Matthews breaks Toronto Maple Leafs' record;  sets mark for most goals in season by US-born player

Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews made history twice over in Thursday’s 4-3 victory against host Dallas in overtime.

The 24-year-old scored his 55th goal of the season late in the second period, passing Rick Vaive to claim Toronto’s single-season goal-scoring record. His 56th gave the Maple Leafs the victory in overtime and set the record for most goals by a US-born player in a season.

Matthews accomplished both feats in only 66 games and has netted 49 goals in his past 50 games alone.

Jimmy Carson (1987-1988) and Kevin Stevens (1992-93) previously held the record for most goals by a US-born player with 55. Vaive’s 54-goal mark had stood for over 40 years, from the 1981-82 campaign ( which was the highest-scoring season in modern NHL history).

The 62-year-old former winger knew it was only a matter of time before Matthews came for his mantle. Toronto’s first overall pick in 2016 had 47 goals before the 2019-20 season was shut down due to COVID-19, and he scored 41 goals in the pandemic-shortened 56-game schedule last year.

« I’m happy for him, I really am, » Vaive told ESPN. « I expected him to do it two years ago. He’s a generational-type player. It’s been 40 years that I had that record. I’m just glad that I’m around to see it. »

Matthews scored his first goal on Thursday with a one-timer from the bottom of the circle to the left of goalie Scott Wedgewood after taking a pass back from Mark Giordano on a power play for a 2-1 lead with 1:02 left in the second period. The winner came when he took a pass from William Nylander and was able to swipe the puck around Wedgewood in overtime.

Matthews said prior to Thursday’s game that potentially breaking the record — after failing to do so in Toronto’s 7-6 overtime loss against Florida on Tuesday — wasn’t his real focus.

« It hasn’t really weighed on me too much, » Matthews said. « I take it game by game and obviously every game I’m trying to create offense and trying to score and trying to produce and help the team win. [Everything else] hasn’t weighed on me. »

Vaive was the first player in Leafs franchise history to score over 50 goals, doing it three times in the 1980s. Gary Leeman in 1990 and Dave Andreychuk in 1994 were the only others to match Vaive, until Matthews crossed the 50-goal mark for the first time on March 31 against Winnipeg.

Matthews needed just 62 games to score his 50th goal, making it the fastest 50-goal season since 1995-96.

Now he has set a new benchmark in Toronto, one he could continue building on this year and maybe surpass in seasons to come.

« His skills are outrageous, » Vaive said. « It’s just crazy, how good he is with the puck and how good his shot is. I’m happy that a guy like him has done this because he would have been different if he was someone who just happened to have a fluke year and did it [once]whereas he’s a guy that you can count on probably to get there or close every single year. »

Matthews continues to lead the NHL in goals and is on track to win the second consecutive Rocket Richard Trophy of his career. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl has been Matthews’ closest competition for the prize, entering Thursday with 50 goals.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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