With his first three shots in his debut performance for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews netted three goals in the first 21 minutes and 25 seconds of play.
His first goal was against Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson after a pass from forward Zach Hyman to give the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead. The 2016 NHL draft’s No. 1 overall pick found the net a second time, this time unassisted after hijacking the puck from Senators captain Erik Karlsson. That tied the game at 2-2. The hat trick was completed when Morgan Rielly sent him a pass from behind the net and Matthews delivered easily to give Toronto a 3-2 lead.
After Matthews scored his third goal, Maple Leafs fans in Ottawa threw their hats on the ice in celebration of the rookie’s achievement on Oct. 12, 2016. Matthews became the first player since 2010 and the fifth player overall since 1943 to score three goals in his rookie debut. NHL cameras panned over to his mother, Ema, who was initially in shock but was then captured on the verge of tears.
Her only son was still not done abusing the Senators’ defense, however. With only three seconds remaining in the second period, William Nylander passed the puck to Matthews in a 2-on-1 break and Matthews finished the play for his fourth goal of the evening. That made the rookie the first player to score four goals in his NHL debut.
Ultimately, Kyle Turris spoiled Matthews coming-out party by scoring the game-winning goal in the Senators’ 5-4 victory in overtime.
“I couldn’t believe that was happening out there,” Matthews said to The Associated Press.
Much of Ema Matthews’ emotion stemmed from the fact that she and her husband, Brian, decided that Matthews would spend a year in Switzerland to play professionally for the Zurich Lions instead of going to college or a junior team. She would spend the year with Matthews and leave the couple’s daughters with Brian.
Originally from Hermosillo, Mexico, Ema Matthews had to bring months’ worth of Mexican food items and seasoning — cilantro, corn tortillas, jalapeños, sauces, etc. — through customs so she could prepare her son’s favorite foods, as the ingredients couldn’t be bought in the country.
Matthews, who was born less than a year and half after Arizona got the Coyotes, celebrated his 18th birthday two days after the 2015 NHL draft deadline with a papier-mâché piñata (which survived all of his Lions teammates’ first round of pummeling) and his mother’s renowned chicken tortilla soup. So good were her soup, fajitas and tacos that forward Ryan Shannon proclaimed it the “best Mexican meal” he ever had, and team wives asked for her recipe.
“He has a sauce that he really likes, a bottle of sauce that he puts to all his meals,” she told Sports Illustrated‘s Alex Prewitt. “We pretty much have to bring the sauce with us everywhere. That was the first thing.”
In June, Matthews won the Calder Memorial Trophy for the NHL’s rookie of the year. The center’s 40 goals and 69 points led all rookies and set records for the Maple Leafs.
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