Going into the 2023 postseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs had not won a playoff series in 17 years, the fifth-longest streak in NHL history. With his team down 3-2 in the final period of Game Three and facing a 2-1 series deficit, Leafs’ superstar Auston Matthews decided he wasn’t letting his team go down without a fight… literally.
Matthews, who scored his first goal of the playoffs in the first period, dropped his gloves for the first time in his career, taking on Steven Stamkos and exchanging punches with the 500-goal scorer.
It marked the first time in league history two 60-goal scorers have fought each other per Sportsnet Stats.
Matthews appeared to land two punches to Stamkos and absorbed three of his own.
Just two 60-goal scorers fighting in the #StanleyCup Playoffs.
Yeah you read that right. pic.twitter.com/5gcQS2qzUC
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 23, 2023
The roughhousing between the two teams began after Leafs’ defender Morgan Rielly sent Brayden Point headfirst into the boards. During the chaos, Stamkos found Matthews in the lineup and pulled him out to brawl.
The event happened so quickly that Matthews didn’t even fully lose his gloves. Both players angrily landed rights before Matthews pulled Stamkos down to the ice.
The fight seemed to do the job and spark the Leafs. At exactly the 59-minute mark with Ilya Samsonov pulled for an extra attacker, Ryan O’Reilly followed up a shot and poked the puck past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, tying the game. The Leafs held off the Bolts for the final minute to send the game into overtime.
After 19 minutes of sudden death, the lander of original the hit, Morgan Rielly, scored the game-winning goal for the Leafs. He gained control of the puck off the faceoff and fired a wrist shot from the blue line.
The Leafs now lead the series 2-1.
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