Playing in arguably one of their biggest games of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs needed their stars to shine Thursday — and their biggest star did just that.
Rocket Richard Trophy candidate Auston Matthews knocked in his 44th goal of the season in a hotly contested, back-and-forth battle with the Panthers in Florida. The marker knotted the game 3-3 in the first period and capped a two-goal comeback by the Leafs with just over a minute left in the opening frame.
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Matthews started the play with a dump-and-chase, tracked down the puck behind the goal line and threw a hit on MacKenzie Weegar that kept him out of the play. He then got the puck to Mitchell Marner, who set up Zach Hyman — and had all four Panthers down low focusing on him. Hyman’s attempted move around netminder Sergei Bobrovsky sent the puck right to an open Matthews for the goal.
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