TORONTO — Auston Matthews isn't the superstitious sort, apparently.
The 19-year-old rookie had no plans to change things up for a stroke of good luck following a 13th consecutive game without a goal. There would be no altering of the tape on his sticks nor any differences in his pre- or post-game routines. Nearly a month without scoring has not caused the No. 1 overall pick to drastically alter anything.
"I'm not crazy like that I guess. Not too superstitious," said Matthews following a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, just the third in 10 games at home for Toronto (7-3-0) this season. "I have my own things that I do, that I've done since I was younger and I kind of just stick with it. It's worked for me until this point so why change."
Matthews was again an impactful force in a losing effort, firing four shots and seven attempts in over 20 minutes. His line, which also includes fellow rookies William Nylander and Zach Hyman, was Toronto's most effective against the Hurricanes, a notoriously stingy group that held the Leafs under 30 shots for only the fifth time all season.
Matthews finished the evening with a 55 per cent puck possession mark, second among the team's forwards.
The Arizona native last scored on Oct. 25 against Tampa, producing only three assists since. That follows a terrific first six games which saw him muster six goals and 10 points, including a historic four-goal NHL debut.
He had numerous opportunities again Tuesday to end the drought, including back-to-back looks in the opening minutes of the second period. The latter was a wraparound chance that was ultimately stopped by Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, sizzling of late in the Carolina crease.
Matthews had another prime opportunity a few minutes later, but shot the puck over the cage.
"He's got a lot of chances around the net at all times," said fellow rookie Mitch Marner. "I'm sure he's going to crack this very soon and when that happens it's going to be scary."
Underlying indicators continue to look strong for Matthews. He's been the Leafs best forward with respect to puck possession, won more than 50 per cent of his faceoffs and fired the most shots on the team (and fourth-most league-wide), including 45 or about three-and-a-half per-game during the drought.
Toronto is also vastly out-chancing the opposition with him on the ice.
"He's going to go through droughts where he's not scoring, but he contributes other ways," said defenceman Jake Gardiner, who scored the only goal in defeat for the Leafs. "He's obviously a huge threat out there all the time so people are going to respect him and that opens up ice for other guys too. Even when he's not scoring he's still a huge threat for us."
Matthews's early success was fuelled in part by the power play (five of his first 10 points were with the man advantage), on which he's mustered just a single assist during the 13-game spell. The Leafs were shut down on three power plays against the Hurricanes, managing only three shots against the league's top penalty killing unit.
They ended up losing the game on special teams, Carolina scoring once with their own man advantage and another, the eventual game-winner, shorthanded.
"I think these are games we have to get better in and find ways to win," head coach Mike Babcock said afterward. "We've won more open games than we've won tight games."
Toronto, for that matter, had won three straight at home, scoring six goals in each. They've won only three one-goal games all season, the third-fewest of any team thus far. A scoring surge was primary to the club winning seven of their first nine home outings.
Despite his offensive slowdown, Matthews remains on pace for more than 25 goals and almost 60 points, both hearty numbers for any first-year player, let alone a centre. His luck his bound to change, too.
His showing against the Hurricanes suggests an imminent break out, similar perhaps as the No. 1 pick who preceded him. Connor McDavid recently went 10 games without a goal for Edmonton before busting out with his first career hat trick last weekend against Dallas.
"The way I look at it, you do good things in life good things happen," Babcock said. "Sometimes not as quick as you want."