Flyers clinch top seed in East with 4-1 win over Tampa Bay Lightning

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 08: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers, Connor Bunnaman #82 of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Joel Farabee #49 of the Philadelphia Flyers along with teammates celebrate their

Rookie Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored twice, and the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Saturday night to clinch the Eastern Conference's top seed through the playoffs.

The Lightning not only dropped the game in completing preliminary round-robin play with a 2-1 record, Tampa Bay's star defenseman Victor Hedman did not return after appearing to twist his right ankle while going down untouched midway through the first period. The Lightning did not provide any details on the 2017 Norris Trophy winner's status except to announce he would miss the remainder of the game.

Joel Farabee had a goal and assist, Tyler Pitlick scored into an empty net with 1:20 left, and Carter Hart stopped 23 shots for the Flyers, who finished 3-0. Philadelphia didn't allow more than one goal in also defeating Boston and Washington, and out-scored its opponents by a combined 11-3.


The Flyers, who entered round-robin play as the East's fourth seed, move on to the first round next week and face the 12th-seeded Montreal Canadiens. 

Montreal upset Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games of their best-of-five preliminary round series. Philadelphia and Montreal have split their previous six playoff meetings, and the teams meet for the first time since the Flyers defeated the Canadiens in five games of the 2010 East finals.

Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots. Tampa Bay was coming off a 3-2 win over Boston on Wednesday, and also had a 3-2 shootout win over Washington.

Hedman, a Norris Trophy finalist this year, went down as he spun around to skate backward at the Tampa Bay blue line with Pitlick driving up the right wing. Hedman then got up slowly and broke his stick while heading down the tunnel to the locker room. 

Tampa Bay will enter the first round of the playoffs as the East's second seed, and is already without captain Steven Stamkos, who has been out since sustaining a lower body injury before the start of training camp last month.

The Lightning will face the winner of the best-of-five preliminary round series between eighth-seeded Toronto and ninth-seeded Columbus, which will be determined in Game 5 on Sunday. The Lightning were swept by the Blue Jackets in a first-round meeting last year, and after Tampa Bay won the Presidents' Trophy. The Lighting and Maple Leafs have never met in the playoffs.

Aube-Kubel, who has seven goals in 45 career NHL games, enjoyed his first career NHL two-goal outing by staking the Flyers to a 2-0 lead by scoring less than seven minutes apart in the first period.

A Lightning turnover in their own zone led to Aube-Kubel standing in front and deflecting in Shayne Gostisbehere's shot from inside the blue line 7:40 in. 

His second goal came on a 2-on-1 break during which he converted Sean Couturier's pass from the right wing. 

Farabee then sealed the victory by one-timing in Gostisbehere's pass into the right circle to put the Flyers ahead 3-1 with 5:38 left in the second period, and 10 minutes after Johnson scored a power-play goal.

Gostisbehere had a two-point outing in making his playoff debut after sitting out the first two games

NOTES: Flyers RW Jakub Voracek did not play for an undisclosed reason. He had an assist in two games. ... Lightning made one rosrter change from Game 2, with D Zach Bogosian returning to the lineup and D Jan Rutta scratched. ... Vasilevskiy appeared in his 36th career playoff game, tying Ben Bishop for the most in team history. Bishop started all 36 appearances, while Vasilevskiy ranks third with 31 starts, two behind Nikolai Khabibulin.


Flyers: Face Montreal in first round of playoffs.

Lightning: Face Columbus or Toronto in first round of playoffs next week.