Attention, Montreal Canadiens, get ready to play the hottest team in ice hockey.
That label was made abundantly clear on Saturday night with the Flyers’ manhandling of the Tampa Bay Lightning, their 4-1 win giving Philadelphia the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs’ round of 16.
Rookie Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored the first two goals of his brief NHL career and goaltender Carter Hart turned in another strong performance as the Flyers finished 3-0 in the round-robin tournament at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Another rookie, Joel Farabee, registered the Flyers’ third goal.
The Flyers, who were seeded fourth in the round robin, now will play the lowest seed in the East which happens to be the eighth-ranked Canadiens, who upset the Pittsburgh Penguins, three games to one, in the best-of-five qualifying round.
The Flyers wound up outscoring Boston, Washington and Tampa Bay, 11-3, for the tournament, allowing each team just one goal.
Coach Alain Vigneault had to be impressed, especially with kids like Aube-Kubel and Farabee.
“There’s a young man (Aube-Kubel) who figured out what it would take to play at this level,’’ Vigneault said in a Zoom call. “He’s a powerful skater that if he plays high percentage, he can be a very effective player.’’
As for Farabee, he looked like a poised veteran even though he just turned 20.
“He’s a young player just scratching the surface as far as his full potential,’’ Vigneault said. “He gets an opportunity tonight (on the top line) and that goal, that was a hard pass from ‘Ghost’ (Shayne Gostisbehere). It takes a special skill set to be able to one-time that.’’
Aube-Kubel opened the scoring at 7:40 of the first period when he stationed himself in front of goaltender Andre Vasilevskiy and managed to tip Gostisbehere’s long shot into the net.
At 14:00 Aube-Kubel struck again, this time completing a give-and-go rush with Sean Couturier. That goal gave Aube-Kubel his first two-goal game in the NHL.
The 24-year-old forward has really blossomed this season.
“I thought I played well the two previous games,’’ he said. “Skating hard, finishing hits. The team result is what makes me confident.’’
Hart was brilliant in the first period, stopping a shorthanded breakaway by Alex Killorn and making a couple other top-notch saves. He also stopped Nikita Kucherov on a breakaway.
“They (the Lightning) came hard early,’’ Hart said. “We battled back and just kind of stepped it up. I think for the majority of the game we were in their zone.
“We knew they were going to come at us in the third period. Throwing pucks from everywhere. But we got a lot of blocks, a lot of guys collapsing to compete on loose pucks. And our PK (penalty kill) was really solid tonight, too.’’
The Flyers outshot the Bolts by a 20-6 margin in the first period.
Tyler Johnson finally got the Lightning on the board at 5:21. With Tampa on a power play, Johnson finished off a pass from behind the end line by Killorn.
That was the first power-play goal allowed by the Flyers during the tournament.
At 14:22 of the second period, Gostisbehere found Farabee open at the right post for his first NHL playoff goal.
Gostisbehere and Couturier each had a pair of assists for the Flyers. Farabee had a goal and an assist.
If the Flyers had lost this game, they would have played the winner of Sunday night’s Game 5 of the Columbus-Toronto series, which on paper would have looked like a much tougher assignment.
“We’re excited,’’ Gostisbehere said. “They (the Canadiens) just played a big series, a big win, they were underdogs there (vs. Pittsburgh). They’re a good team, you can’t take anyone lightly. You have to be ready at the drop of the puck. For us, I think it’s a good matchup.’’
>Hedman suffers leg injury
Tampa’s premier Victor Hedman, a Norris Trophy finalist, slipped and fell awkwardly at about the nine-minute mark of the first period. Hedman smashed his stick in anger as he headed to the locker room and did not return to the game.
Jake Voracek was listed as “not available’’ and did not play. Farabee took his place on the Couturier line. . .Steven Stamkos was an injury scratch for the Lightning.