Scott Laughton and Kevin Hayes each scored three points, and the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Washington Capitals 3-1 in a Stanley Cup Qualifiers round-robin game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Thursday.
Laughton had two goals and an assist, and Hayes had three assists for Philadelphia (2-0-0), which will play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday for the No. 1 seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Travis Konecny had two assists, and Brian Elliott made 16 saves.
[WATCH: All Capitals vs. Flyers highlights]
“We had a really good training camp in Philly, the guys are confident in each other, and we have a lot of guys that work really, really hard,” Laughton said. “It’s easy to try and execute when you have guys moving their feet, staying over top of teams and making it hard on them. We’ve picked up from our camp and continue to grow our game. We need to continue to do that.”
Braden Holtby made 18 saves, and Travis Boyd scored for Washington (0-1-1), which will play the Boston Bruins for the No. 3 seed on Sunday in Toronto, the Eastern hub city.
“It’s not a secret, we have a different level of play and we need to get to it if we want to have success,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “We need more from everybody.”
Washington, which lost 3-2 in a shootout to Tampa Bay on Monday, has scored three goals in its two round-robin games, including none at even strength from its top two lines. Forward Alex Ovechkin, who tied David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the NHL lead with 48 goals this season, has no points.
“I think the hardest thing when you come from a big break, kind of playing summer hockey if you will, is offense is pretty easy when you’re playing shinny and no one’s really playing for real, and you get out here and it’s a lot harder,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. “You’ve got to work a lot harder to score goals. You’ve got to work harder to get in position to score goals. Things happen a lot faster. So we definitely need more offense. If not goals, then at least chances and momentum from the top six here.”
Laughton gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 13:03 of the first period, scoring on a one-timer into an open net from the slot off a turnaround pass from Konecny.
The Flyers’ second line of Laughton, Hayes and Konecny has combined for 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in their two round-robin games.
“They’re certainly without a doubt our best line at this moment,” Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault said. “I think offensively and defensively tonight, this was their best night.”
Travis Sanheim made it 2-0 at 11:30 of the second during a 4-on-4. He scored from in front after receiving a pass from Hayes, who played the puck along the right wall to buy time before Sanheim got open cutting through the left circle.
“It’s 4-on-4, so there’s a ton of ice there, and when you have a bunch of guys crisscrossing, it makes it hard for the defenders to kind of figure out who has who,” Hayes said. “One guy might want to switch, but the other guy doesn’t, and all of a sudden you have a guy open. Luckily, that happened.”
Hayes passed to Laughton in front of the net for his second goal to put the Flyers ahead 3-0 at 8:37 of the third.
“That’s a breakdown in coverage and they take advantage of it,” Reirden said. “It’s individual responsibilities that happen from mistakes prior to that, and that’s how goals happen. We have to execute better with the puck and give ourselves a chance to play in the offensive zone.”
Boyd scored 12 seconds later to make it 3-1, but the Capitals had three shots on goal the rest of the way, none in the final 5:51.
“I think it’s just important to play the right way and keep building on this momentum we’re gaining right now,” Flyers center Sean Couturier said. “Yeah, we want to win, we want to finish with the highest possible seed, but as long as we’re at our best once the real playoffs start, that’s the biggest thing.”
John Carlson didn’t play for a second straight game. The Capitals defenseman was injured in the third period of Washington’s 3-2 exhibition win against the Carolina Hurricanes on July 29.
“The point of these games is obviously for the seeding, but for us personally, we need to get our game where we need it to be,” Oshie said. “We need to use these games and put ourselves in situations mentally to figure out how to be mentally strong out there, how to get our game to a certain level. Definitely it’s harder to do that when you can lose three and you’re still in the playoffs. But I think we just have to do a better job of getting our game to that next level. Luckily we’ve got one more to try to do that.”
NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin contributed to this story