First-overall 2016 NHL draft pick Auston Matthews led the Toronto Maple Leafs to a win on a huge stage Sunday at the outdoor Centennial Classic at Toronto’s BMO Field, a win that came after they narrowly survived a massive third-period comeback from the Detroit Red Wings.
Most of this game was low-scoring, with the Red Wings leading 1-0 after the first two frames thanks to a second-period goal from Anthony Mantha. The Leafs seemingly pulled away in the final period with four straight goals, with Matthews’ goal at 12:05 of the third giving them a three-goal lead with less than eight minutes to go, but Jonathan Ericsson and Tomas Tatar scored to make it a one-goal game before Mantha’s goal with just over one second left tied the game:
That goal held up on review, leading to overtime. Both sides had chances, including Toronto’s Morgan Rielly being stopped on a breakaway, before Matthews drove to the net and buried a loose puck that careened back in front after Jake Gardiner’s shot went wide:
And here’s the replay, with another angle:
That’s a great goal from Matthews, and one that helped redeem what could have been a very disappointing ending for the Leafs and all their fans in attendance. Blowing a three-goal third-period lead like that, especially with the tying goal scored with just over a second left, could have felt disastrous, and appropriate for a team that’s struggled so much over the years. They have Matthews now, though, and he’s certainly helping to turn things around; he got his 19th and 20th goals in this one. The two points may prove crucial for the Leafs, too, as they’re currently on the outside of the playoff race looking in, but only three points back of the second wild-card slot. They can thank Matthews for their emergence from this one with a win.