If there was any fear of high praise getting into Auston Matthews' head, the superstar didn't show any signs of it.
Matthews scored twice to increase his league lead to 16 goals this season added two assists in a 7-3 dismantling of the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old continued his torrid pace to start the year. Matthews extended his point-scoring streak to 15 games and helped propel the team to a North Division-leading 13-3-2 record.
"Puck's going in the net and that's great," Matthews said "But the most important thing is we're winning hockey games."
It was the third meeting in four nights between the clubs. On Wednesday, the Leafs defeated the Senators 2-1. Matthews scored also scored that night and that led to veteran forward Joe Thornton showering praise over the Scottsdale, Ariz. native.
"He's on a different level," Thornton said on Wednesday. "He does so many things and he just plays the game the right way. I really enjoy watching him play and playing alongside him. He's the complete package."
Thornton hasn't looked out of place since rejoining the team's lineup on Monday. Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe turned heads when he announced at the beginning of training camp that the 41-year-old veteran would start the season on the team's first line with Matthews and Mitch Marner.
It worked well on Thursday.
Thornton scored a goal and added two assists. Marner had a goal and three assists.
"It's easy to play with him and me and Mitchy have been playing with each other for a bit," Matthews said of playing with Thronton. "As you play more and more and get more touches in practice with each other we seem to get better."
Matthews opened the scoring for the Leafs in the first period while on the power play. Thornton, who recently switched roles on special teams to the net-front player, provided a screen to Senators goaltender Marcus Hogberg and Matthews' wrister trickled into the net at 10:29.
He scored his second of the game later in the period when he corraled a drop pass from Marner behind the net and beat Matt Murray, who subbed into the game after an injury to Hogberg in the first period.
"He’s picking goalies apart," William Nylander said of Matthews. "They don’t really stand a chance.”
As Matthews kept his production streak alive, Nylander and Tavares put an end to their goalless droughts.
Nylander picked up his first goal in eight games after pouncing on a rebound on the power play at 11 minutes of the second period.
In the third , the Leafs changed things up by putting Nylander and Marner on different lines. That ignited Tavares, who scored just his second even-strength goal this season and first tally in seven games.
Toronto's power play had its first multi-goal game since Jan. 28, when the they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-3.
Ilya Mikheyev also scored in Toronto's win.
Matthews' mastery over the Senators has continued to hang over the club since the player dazzled with a record-breaking four-goal NHL debut at Canadian Tire Centre on Oct. 12, 2016. He has 19 goals and 13 assists in 20 NHL games against the Senators and has recorded a point against Ottawa in 13 of his last 14 games.
There are four more games between these teams before the season runs out. In the meantime, Matthews continues to grow his game at both ends of the ice.
Toronto is pulling away from the pack, and Matthews is leading on that front.
Hutch in goal
Keefe made changes at every position in the lineup on Thursday.
Michael Hutchinson made his season debut and made 34 saves.
"I felt more comfortable as the game went on," Hutchinson said.
"Being on the bench watching Freddy (Frederik Andersen) play, seeing how hard he works in practice, has been absolutely amazing."
Hutchinson started this season as the team's fourth goaltender on the depth chart but moved up to the No. 3 spot when Aaron Dell was claimed on waivers by the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 18. Backup goaltender Jack Campbell injured his leg on Jan. 24 in a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames, thrusting Hutchinson into the No. 2 spot.
Joseph Woll dressed as Hutchinson's backup. Frederik Andersen, who had started the last 10 games, was given a night off.
Zach Hyman was scratched with an undisclosed injury and is day-to-day, per Keefe. Hyman blocked a few hard shots against the Senators on Wednesday. Nic Petan drew in and was a -1 with 11:11 of ice time.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian was scratched to rest. He had played every game of the regular season until Thursday night. Mikko Lehtonen drew into the lineup and was a -2 with 17:47 of ice time.