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Red Wings top Maple Leafs in OT; Auston Matthews scores 69th goal of the season

TORONTO — Auston Matthews moved closer to a milestone that has gone untouched for more than 30 years.

Dylan Larkin and his teammates are fine with that — they secured two priceless points in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Red Wings captain scored on a power play 41 seconds into overtime Saturday as Detroit topped Toronto 5-4 despite Matthews bagging his jaw-dropping 69th goal of the season.

The Maple Leafs sniper scored in the second period as part of a comeback that saw the home side erase a 4-1 deficit. Every time Matthews touched the puck from there, the sense of anticipation rose inside a bubbling Scotiabank Arena.

"My approach every game, every night is the same," he said. "I just try not to really overthink."

Matthews, who has scored 10 times in his last eight games to equal Mario Lemieux's total of 69 in 1995-96, is looking to become the first player to hit 70 goals in a campaign since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny both reached 76 in 1992-93.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said he got caught up in the moment after Matthews scored the Leafs' third goal and sat just shy of 70.

"Major distraction," he said. "It doesn't help us in what we're trying to accomplish on the ice.

"But it's exciting. I get it."

Alex DeBrincat, with two, David Perron, with a goal and an assist, and Simon Edvinsson provided the rest of the offence for Detroit (39-32-9). Reimer made 32 saves in his 500th game. Patrick Kane and J.T. Compher both had two assists.

"It's special," said Reimer, who was drafted by the Leafs in 2006 and spent six seasons in Toronto. "Proud of the guys."

Larkin, who also had an assist, redirected Kane's shot in the extra period with Max Domi off for tripping.

"One of the biggest of my career," Larkin said following his 33rd goal of 2023-24. "You can't feel any better."

Mitch Marner, with a goal and two assists, John Tavares and Nick Robertson also scored for Toronto (46-24-10). Ilya Samsonov stopped 28 shots. Morgan Rielly had two assists.

Detroit is tied with Washington on points for the East's second wild-card berth, but Capitals own the tiebreaker with two games left for both teams. Saturday's loss locks the Leafs into the Atlantic Division's No. 3 spot with two road games left on their schedule.

Down 4-1 after an ugly opening 20 minutes, Robertson scored his 14th at 9:04 of the second before Kane took a double-minor for high-sticking.

That set the stage for Matthews, who hit the crossbar in the first, to fire No. 69 past Reimer before emphatically punching the air at 10:23 inside a deafening rink.

"Players just decided it was important — that's it," Keefe said of what changed for his team at the intermission. "When it's time to play, we show what we're capable of."

Matthews nearly got his 70th moments later on a break, but Reimer closed the pads.

The Leafs got even at 17:22 when Tavares snapped his 26th as the home side dug out of that three-goal hole in just over eight minutes.

Samsonov, who nearly got pulled after the first, stopped Lucas Raymond in close with nine minutes left in regulation and made another huge stop right before OT with Domi in the box.

"I felt our team was gonna be better," Keefe said. "And I felt Sammy needed to be a part of that. Glad it worked out the way it did, because he was outstanding."

Marner opened the scoring on a power play at 8:35 of the first with his 26th.

Detroit tied it 1:27 later when DeBrincat scored his 25th and the Wings went ahead at 13:39 when Edvinsson added his first.

DeBrincat made it 3-1 on a man advantage at 17:37 before Perron then put the visitors up three with less than 20 seconds left in the period when he snuck his 16th past the Toronto netminder.

Samsonov's teammates pushed back from there, with the crowd practically trying to will the puck off Matthews' stick and into Detroit's net for No. 70.

But it wouldn't happen on this night.

"Especially when he gets to 69, you can see it's growing, anticipating," Keefe said of the temperature in the building. "Now you're feeding it — I'm feeding it. I want it to happen, wanted it for the fans.

"I'm glad the game's over."

LILY'S BACK

Leafs defenceman Timothy Liljegren (upper-body injury) dressed for the first time since March 26. Toronto winger Bobby McMann (lower-body) was hurt in the first period and didn't return. Leafs blueliner Jake McCabe took a puck to the face in the second and didn't return, but Keefe said he should be fine.

UP NEXT

Detroit: Hosts the Canadiens on Monday before visiting Montreal to close out the regular season Tuesday.

Toronto: Visits the Florida Panthers on Tuesday before taking on the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2024.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press