Auston Matthews scores his first goal in Arizona

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/7109/" data-ylk="slk:Auston Matthews">Auston Matthews</a> couldn’t help but smile after scoring against the Coyotes. (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
Auston Matthews couldn’t help but smile after scoring against the Coyotes. (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Scoring your first goal in your hometown is a meaningful achievement for any player, but it’s a little different for Auston Matthews.

In only his second career game in Arizona, the Scottsdale native scored his first NHL goal in his home state in Toronto’s 7-4 win over the Coyotes on Thursday — and his smile said it all.

It wasn’t the first goal Matthews scored against his childhood team. He did that last December in Toronto, but he was held without a goal during his first visit to Arizona a week later. He made sure to cross that off his bucket list Thursday with family, friends and a whole bunch of fans in attendance.

“It’s special for sure,” Matthews told Sportsnet after the game. “Just coming home it’s always special playing here, but being able to score obviously and getting a big win makes it that much better — a fun night.”

Only one other player from Arizona has scored a goal at Gila River Arena, but it didn’t have the same meaning. Flyers center Sean Couturier was born in Phoenix, but spent his childhood in Bathurst, New Brunswick, where he calls home. When he popped one against the Coyotes in March of 2016, you didn’t hear much about it.

Matthews on the other hand wasn’t born in Arizona — he was born in San Ramon, Calif. — but it’s where he calls home. He grew up there as a Coyotes fan, played his minor hockey there and is an active ambassador for growing the sport in the valley.

It’s pretty rare for a team to welcome home an opposing player, but Auston Matthews is a pretty rare player.

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