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Matthews blanked in finale as quest for 70 denied

Written by 
Published in Breaking News
Thursday, 18 April 2024 00:49

TAMPA, Fla. -- Auston Matthews came up empty in his bid to become the ninth player in NHL history to score 70 goals in a season Wednesday night in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the regular-season finale.

Matthews was denied on all seven first-period shots by 29-year-old rookie goalie Matt Tomkins, then rocketed a shot off the post midway through the second period. Tomkins finished with 34 saves, including 12 on Matthews, in his sixth NHL start.

Matthews' 12 shots on goal were tied for his second-most in a game this season.

"I wanted it, for sure, but it just wasn't meant to be," said Matthews, who went scoreless on back-to-back nights against the Florida Panthers and Lightning. "The most important thing is the team and the team's success, making sure I'm pulling my weight as a leader on this team and help the team win. That's where my focus is at."

Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said there's more to Matthews' game than putting the puck in the net.

"He's played so tremendously well," Keefe said. "I know there's been a lot of focus on him reaching 70 goals; you kind of lose sight of how well he's played. The way he's played these last two games -- give him those types of chances and those types of shots, and he could have had 75. It wasn't meant to be, and that's OK -- 69 is an unbelievable season."

Matthews' consecutive scoreless games followed an eight-game goal streak in which he scored 10 goals.

The third-place Maple Leafs open the playoffs in Boston against the second-place Bruins on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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