DETROIT (AP) — Auston Matthews heard the short list of NHL greats he joined by scoring nine times in the first five games of the season.
”Nice,” Matthews said after scoring twice for a league-leading nine goals to help Toronto beat Detroit 5-3 Thursday night.
Matthews is the third player in franchise history to score in the first five games of a season.
”He had a fast start last year, too, unfortunately he got injured,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. ”He’s a big man. He’s really worked hard on his body. He’s worked hard on his skating and all parts of his game. With and without the puck, he’s better.”
Morgan Rielly had a goal and an assist, giving him 12 points to surpass Bobby Orr’s strong start during the 1973-74 season. Among defensemen, Rielly trails only Harry Cameron, who had 15 points in the Toronto Arenas’ first five games of the 1917-18 season.
”I’m not going to address personal stuff,” Rielly said. ”I think it’s more important to move on.”
Nick Jensen gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead midway through the first period and scored a second goal midway through the third to pull them within a goal.
”It’s never as sweet when you get the goals but you don’t get the win,” he said.
Soon after Jensen’s second goal, Matthews took advantage of a power play by scoring his second goal of the game.
Detroit pulled within a goal again when a review determined Dylan Larkin scored with 6:04 left in the game. The Red Wings pulled Jimmy Howard to add an extra skater, but Ron Hainsey scored an empty-net goal to seal the win.
”I didn’t like the third,” said Babcock, a former Detroit coach. ”We didn’t take care of the puck as good and we didn’t keep our foot on the gas.”
Howard had 30 stops for the rebuilding Red Wings, who have lost their first four games for the first time since the 1980.
”Bits and pieces of the game we did some of the good things, but it wasn’t enough done right,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
John Tavares, the top prize in free agency last summer, had four assists for the Atlantic Division-leading Maple Leafs, winners of three straight.
”It’s great for the all the guys who are doing some scoring right now,” Babcock said. ”It makes you feel good. In the end, though, it’s about winning. It doesn’t really matter who does the scoring as long as you find a way to win. It’s an exciting time for our team, but we’ve got to get a lot better.”
NOTES: Matthews joined Sweeney Schriner (1944-45) and Corb Denneny (1921-22) in team history as the three players who scored in each of its first five games in a season. … The Red Wings announced before the game they will retire Hall of Famer Red Kelly’s No. 4 jersey on Feb. 1, 2019, when they host Toronto. Kelly played in Detroit from 1947-60 and for the Maple Leafs from 1960-67. Toronto retired his jersey two years ago. … Jensen has scored three of the six goals in his career against Toronto. The defenseman did not score in 81 games last season and had four the previous season as a rookie.