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Auston Matthews, Leafs face Connor Bedard, Blackhawks

Auston Matthews will look to continue his torrid scoring pace Monday night when his Toronto Maple Leafs face the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.

Matthews scored three goals for the second consecutive game Saturday night in a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Wild.

He also scored three times against the Montreal Canadiens in the season opener, a 6-5 shootout win Wednesday night.

Toronto will end a three-game, season-opening homestand against prized rookie Connor Bedard and the Blackhawks, who lost 3-2 at Montreal on Saturday.

Matthews has nine career hat tricks.

He is the fifth player in NHL history to have a hat trick in each of his first two games to start a season, joining Alex Ovechkin (2017-18), Cy Denneny (1917-18), Joe Malone (1917-18) and Reg Noble (1917-18).

“I think the work ethic has been there both games, and as a line just moving our feet, making sure we are taking care of each other defensively and just trying to attack offensively, and obviously the puck has been going in, so that’s always fun and always positive,” Matthews said.

“It’s been fun,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “You don’t expect back-to-back hat tricks, of course, but I’ve gotten somewhat comfortable and used to Auston having big nights and making a big impact.

“But to do so on back-to-back nights to start a season, it’s terrific. He looks like he’s having lots of fun. … Auston is focused on the big picture. He’s looking to really drive our team.”

William Nylander added a goal and an assist Saturday and has three goals this season.

Chicago got two third-period goals from Tyler Johnson against Montreal, but it wasn’t enough as the Blackhawks could not overcome an 0-for-7 power play and a Montreal short-handed goal.

“My performance is team performance, so I’m not too happy with what happened,” Johnson said.

Many of the mistakes came on the power play.

“We started to get a little bit — I don’t want to use the word ‘selfish’ — but we started to rely on our skill instead of helping each other, making it more of a team game,” Johnson said.

“We played OK in the first period,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “A little bit scrambly with all the power plays and penalty kills. The second period we just didn’t have it. We looked tired, we didn’t have the energy, and disconnected. A lot of turnovers. And, obviously, the power play was not sharp.”

Chicago rallied in the third period, outshooting Montreal 16-9.

“We regrouped, we talked about it with the players in between, and the best period was our third, obviously,” Richardson said. “We pushed hard and unfortunately we ran out of time.”

“We were more desperate (in the third) and ended up getting a couple (goals) but we had our chances,” said Bedard, the 10th NHL No. 1 pick to have a point in each of his first three NHL games. “But (we) had a lot of breakdowns (earlier) and that’s why we lost.”

On one power-play breakdown, Bedard shot wide and Montreal’s Sean Monahan broke out uncontested for a short-handed goal.

“That’s just what happens when you’re a bit out of sync,” Richardson said. “Just poor decision-making led to that. We’ve got to be sharper and that’s definitely something we have to work on.”

–Field Level Media

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