The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft became the first player in NHL history to score four goals in his regular-season debut as his Toronto Maple Leafs fell to the Ottawa Senators 5-4 in overtime on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
``It was pretty surreal, I couldn't believe it,'' said Matthews, who had no idea he had made history with his performance.
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, who has been with Toronto for a season, was impressed by Matthews' performance. Although the Maple Leafs took the loss, he sees a lot of potential in his young team.
``For me, from my perspective, since I've been a Leafs coach that's the best night we've had since I've been here by 10 miles, not even close,'' said Babcock. ``Now we have an opportunity.''
Just as impressive was Matthews taking responsibility for Senators forward Kyle Turris scoring the overtime winner.
``That last play was 100 per cent my fault,'' said Matthews. ``We came here to win and we didn't get that done.''
It's that mentality that makes the rookie all the more impressive to his coaches and teammates.
``He's a man,'' said Babcock. ``He's 19 years old, but he acts like he's 27. He's got good maturity.
``He's a good player. When you see that second goal he scored not many guys can do that.''
Matthews's success was no surprise to Senators head coach Guy Boucher who coached against the young centre last year in the Swiss Elite League.
``He's the real deal,'' said Boucher. ``I told everybody and I saw it first hand last year so I'm not surprised. He's the total package. He played against men last year and he's playing against men now so I'm not surprised.''
Fellow Toronto rookie William Nylander benefited the most from Matthews's performance, earning two assists, while Frederik Andersen stopped 25 shots for the Leafs (0-0-1). Babcock was quick to praise fellow youngsters Mitch Marner, who had six shots on goal, as well as Zach Hyman and Nylander.
Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson, Derrick Brassard and Turris, with two goals, scored for the Senators (1-0-0). Craig Anderson made 34 saves.
Anderson won't soon forget the evening as he will forever be tied to Matthews in the history books.
``I'll be remembered for one thing for a long, long time in Toronto,'' said Anderson. ``I didn't know (the four goals are a record) but I do now.
``He's good. It's one of those things he had a great night as an individual, but as a group we found a way to win. Hats off to him, he was an outstanding player (Wednesday).''
Matthews opened the scoring at the 8:21 mark of the first period, standing in front of Anderson as Hyman centred the puck from behind the net. Matthews swatted at the pass, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead on his first shot of the game.
Ottawa tied the game midway through the period as Ryan picked up Karlsson's rebound and backhanded it past Andersen. Two minutes later, Karlsson gave the Senators a 2-1 lead after scoring from the blue line.
For his second goal, Matthews showed off his flashy puck-handling skills. He stripped Ottawa right-winger Mark Stone of the puck near the Senators' blue line, then dangled the puck in and around the rest of the defence before putting it over Anderson's shoulder.
While each goal was significant, Matthews admitted the second was probably the most special as it exemplified the type of player he wants to be in this league.
He completed the hat trick just 1:25 into the second period, taking a cross-ice feed from Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly as the Toronto veteran charged toward the goal line, putting a light one-timer past Anderson.
Despite a bipartisan crowd of 17,618 on hand at Canadian Tire Centre, hats came raining down and Matthews's mother, Ema, was spotted with tears in her eyes. Matthews' father Brian was also on hand for the game and the two were clearly emotional watching their son.
``It's pretty special having my parents here,'' said Matthews. ``It was great to have them share the moment with me.''
Brassard, an Ottawa native acquired in the off-season for Mika Zibanejad, tied the game 3-3, as he muscled his way to the net and beat Andersen short side.
Matthews added his fourth goal in the final seconds of the second period, taking a pass from William Nylander on a 2-on-1 opportunity. Matthews is the fifth player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his regular-season debut and the first in Maple Leafs history.
The 19-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, is the 12th first overall pick to score in his NHL debut.
Matthews was the fifth player with three goals in his NHL debut since 1943-44 and first since Derek Stepan with the New York Rangers in October 2010. Alex Smart (Montreal, 1943), Real Cloutier (Quebec, 1979) and Fabian Brunnstrom (Dallas, 2008) also had hat tricks in their first NHL games, though Cloutier played five seasons with the Nordiques in the WHA before that.
Turris, who had tied the game early in the third, had his second goal of the night 37 seconds into overtime to hand the host Senators the victory.
Notes: D Thomas Chabot and LW Matt Puempel were healthy scratches for the Senators. ... D Frank Corrado and Roman Polak as well as C Seth Griffith were healthy scratches for Toronto.
EDMONTON 7 CALGARY 4
EDMONTON _ Connor McDavid wanted to start things right at Rogers Place, the new home of the Edmonton Oilers.
McDavid scored two goals and added an assist as Edmonton defeated the rival Calgary Flames 7-4 on Wednesday night after a pre-game ceremony where former Oilers greats Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier figuratively passed the torch to the 19-year-old phenom.
``The anticipation for this game was huge and the fans were excited and all the greats were in the building,'' said McDavid. ``It was an exciting night for our whole organization and it was a good way to start it.
``I'm kind of happy it's over. I'll definitely take a lot of good memories from tonight and move on with those.''
Patrick Maroon, Tyler Pitlick, Zack Kassian, Jordan Eberle and Jesse Puljujarvi also scored for the Oilers (1-0-0), who officially opened their lavish new Rogers Place building in front of 18,550 fans.
Edmonton head coach Todd McLellan said that McDavid definitely grabbed a hold of the game in the second period.
``He was Connor. He was our leader. He had fire in his eyes,'' he said.
Alex Chiasson, Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik and Dennis Wideman responded for the Flames (0-1-0).
SHARKS 2 KINGS 1
SAN JOSE, Calif. _ Opening night went as scripted for the San Jose Sharks from the unveiling of the Western Conference championship banner to Brent Burns' game-winning goal in the third period.
Things couldn't have gotten off to a worse start for the Los Angeles Kings, who might have lost far more than the season opener when star goalie Jonathan Quick left the game with a lower-body injury.
Burns scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period against Los Angeles backup Jeff Zatkoff and the Sharks beat the Kings 2-1 Wednesday.
``There was energy in the building,'' forward Logan Couture said. ``It was a cool moment with the banner. Sharks fans were into it from the start. It was like the playoffs. We came out on the ice and it felt like a playoff game right away.''
Couture added a power-play goal and an assist and Martin Jones made 21 saves in San Jose's first real game since losing the Stanley Cup Final to Pittsburgh exactly four months earlier.
Tyler Toffoli scored a power-play goal in a rough start to the season for the Kings.
Quick left after stopping 14 of 15 shots in the first period with a lower body injury. He hurt himself stretching to get to the post to stop a chance by Joe Pavelski late in the period and is scheduled for an MRI on Thursday.
``We all know what Quickie brings for our team and what he's done here,'' Toffoli said. ``We can't be thinking about that, we have to be positive. Zat's played unbelievable coming into today. We're confident in what he has for our team.''
BLUES 5 HAWKS 2
CHICAGO _ St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock got what he needed from his top players, and that was more than enough on opening night.
Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and an assist, and the Blues kicked off the season with a solid 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
``The guys that have been around did a number today,'' Hitchcock said. ``The guys that have been here before and know what it's like to play in this building, know what it's like to play against Chicago, they played really well today.''
Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny each had a goal and two assists for the Blues, who eliminated the Blackhawks in seven games in the first round of the playoffs in April. Jake Allen had 17 saves in his first game since he was handed the lead goaltending job with Brian Elliott's June trade to Calgary.
St. Louis went 3 for 5 on the power play.
``I think that last two days in practice really helped us find our groove,'' said defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, who took over as captain after David Backes signed with Boston in the off-season. ``We kept it simple, try not to be overly complicated. We've got a lot of guys who can shoot the puck. The big thing is putting the puck toward the net.''
Richard Panik and Ryan Hartman scored for Chicago, which struggled in the second period. Corey Crawford finished with 29 saves.