Montreal (AFP) – Toronto rookie Auston Matthews applied the dramatic ending with a goal 3:40 into overtime as the Maple Leafs edged the Detroit 5-4 in a NHL outdoor game.
The 19-year-old American on Sunday lifted a loose puck from the side of the net over Detroit goaltender Jared Coreau to cap a thrilling extra session and lift the Leafs to their fifth consecutive victory.
“It was just sitting there and I tried to get it up in the air on the goalie as much as I could,” Matthews said.
The inaugural Centennial Classic in Toronto launched a year of 100th anniversary NHL celebrations.
The Leafs won despite squandering a three-goal lead over the Red Wings halfway through the third period in front of a crowd of 40,100 at Exhibition Place Stadium, site of last year’s Major League Soccer and Canadian Football League finals.
The Red Wings scored twice in the final 74 seconds with their goaltender removed for an extra attacker, the last goal coming with only 1.1 seconds remaining as Canadian Anthony Mantha netted his second of the game to force overtime.
“We tried to stay level headed,” Matthews said. “We had a couple of bad breaks, but we didn’t give up.
“Not many people get this experience. To see this in Toronto is pretty special.”
Matthews’ game-winner was his second goal of the contest and 20th of the season. The Arizona native has had little trouble making the transition from developmental leagues to the NHL.
“I believe in myself,” he said. “Going into the season I didn’t put too many expectations on myself.”
Leo Komarov, Mitch Marner, Connor Brown and Matthews scored in regulation for the Maple Leafs. Zach Hyman added two assists for Toronto.
Mantha added an assist for the Red Wings, who have lost two of their past three games. Jonathan Ericsson and Dylan Larkin also scored for Detroit.
Denmark’s Frederik Andersen stopped 33 shots in the Toronto goal, while Coreau, of Canada, made 22 saves in Detroit’s net.
The Maple Leafs took a 3-1 lead on the seventh goal of the season by Brown at 9:34 from close in on a pass from Hyman.
Matthews scored his first goal at 12:05 on a shot from the right circle to increase the lead to three goals.
Detroit came back with the first goal of the season by Ericsson at 13:54 to cut the Toronto lead to two goals.
With Coreau out of the net, the Red Wings scored again at 18:14 on the ninth goal of the season by Larkin.
Mantha scored his ninth goal of the season at 19:58 to tie the score 4-4.
The Leafs improved to 17-12 with 7 overtime losses for 41 points, 10th in the Eastern Conference, while Detroit fell to 16-16-5. [/restrict]