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Maple Leafs triumph over Coyotes in Matthews' desert homecoming

Maple Leafs triumph over Coyotes in Matthews' desert homecoming

Auston Matthews arrived in the Phoenix area with considerable fanfare and left with an assist and victory.

Matthews had an assist in his first NHL game in his hometown and upstaged his mentor, Arizona captain Shane Doan, in the Maple Leafs’ 4-1 victory over the Coyotes on Friday night.

“We won,” said Matthews, who grew up and played youth hockey in Scottsdale. “That’s the most important thing. It was special to come home. I’m happy we got the win.”

The 40-year-old Doan scored his 400th goal in his 1,500th game.

“Obviously, there comes a time when everything is said and done, you’ll learn to appreciate it more,” Doan said, “but right now we need to find a way to win.”

Leo Komarov scored twice, and Connor Brown and William Nylander also scored for Toronto, and Frederik Andersen made 31 saves.

“It felt good,” said Komarov, who scored for the first time in 16 games, “but it’s my job to score goals. Last year a lot of things were bouncing my way but this year has been a little bit different.”

The Maple Leafs have won three of four, while the Coyotes have lost four straight.

Doan and Matthews, the first overall pick in the draft, started the game on opposite sides of the face-off circle, an early matchup of mentor and mentee.

Matthews struck on his second shift of the night.

Martin Hanzal tried clearing the puck out of the Coyotes’ zone but his pass deflected off the skates of Matthews and then Radim Vrbata. Matthews pulled the puck off the blue line inches before it left the zone, took two strides and passed to Brown on his right for the score over Mike Smith’s right shoulder.

“I thought he was good,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said of his 19-year-old sensation. “We knew it was going to be a big day for him and his family. It’s not often anybody is treated like this.”

Komarov made it 2-0 with a power-play goal 43 seconds into the second, deflecting Jake Gardiner’s shot from the point past Smith.

Doan cut the lead in half with 43.4 seconds left in the period when he took a pass from Connor Murphy skating between the circles and beat Andersen for his milestone goal.

Shane Doan scores 400th goal in 1,500th NHL game1:35

Matthews had a chance to score with just under 7 minutes left in the second period but was stopped point-blank on a pad save by Smith.

Komarov added his second at 13:34, pouncing on a bouncing puck along the left boards and slipping the puck between Smith’s pads from just in front of the crease.

Nylander extended Toronto’s lead to 4-1, capitalizing on a turnover to score on a backhand flip over Smith from the left front of the crease.

“Our puck play continues to bite us a little bit,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. “It was a good day for hockey in Arizona.”

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CBC | Sports News

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