The Flyers won the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and (gasp!) beat Tampa Bay to do it. They never beat Tampa Bay. Some observations:
First of all. The Flyers first period was their worst throughout the season, but they came out Saturday and dominated. Nic Aube-Kubel had two goals and five shots on goal. The Lightning team had six shots.
Nic of time. Aube-Kubel had the first two goals, hit a post, and nearly got free on a breakaway. He averaged 10 minutes, 28 seconds in the first two games. Alain Vigneault rewarded him by playing him 14:09 on Saturday.
Lightning strike. The Flyers had lost seven in a row to the Lightning, giving up at least five goals in six of those games. Carter Hart (23 saves) also had never beaten the Lightning.
Our three stars. Nic Aube-Kubel, Carter Hart, Shayne Gostisbehere. The official three stars were Aube-Kubel, Gostisbehere and Sean Couturier.
Power-play lineup. With Jake Voracek unfit to play, Joel Farabee went up to the first unit on the first power-play. James van Riemsdyk was on the second unit, where Farabee had been in the prior game. Also, Gostisbehere was in for Travis Sanheim. The Flyers entered the night 0-for-8 with a man advantage in the first two round-robin games. Make it 0-for-11.
Good Ghost. Gostisbehere played for the first time since the July 28 exhibition against Pittsburgh and looked terrific. When he’s healthy and skating well, he can be the Flyers best offensive defenseman. Gostisbehere, who took Robert Hagg’s place in the lineup, assisted on Aube-Kubel’s first goal with a nifty twist-and-shoot move from the blue line.
No Jake, no problem. Farabee also took Voracek’s place on the top line with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux. He fit right in, scoring the Flyers’ third goal and was plus-two. Gostisbehere assisted on that goal too, with a beautiful cross-ice pass to Farabee.
No fighting. Scott Laughton drilled Blake Coleman with a check near the boards late in the second period that Zach Bogosian did not appreciate. The Tampa Bay defenseman immediately dropped his gloves and challenged Laughton to a fight. Laughton declined, and Bogosian let him off without throwing a punch. Smart move by Bogosian. The Lightning already were without Victor Hedman and to lose another defenseman for 5 minutes for fighting, and probably two more for instigating, would have not gone over well. Bogosian was scratched in Tampa’s previous game.
Jumping seeds. The Flyers went from the 4th seed to 1st. In the West, Vegas improved from No. 3 to No. 1.
What’s next. The Flyers play 12th-seeded Montreal in the first round. It’ll be the seventh time they’ve met in the postseason, and first since the Flyers beat the Les Habs in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals.