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Laughton, Flyers beat Capitals 3-1

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (70) makes a stop on Philadelphia Flyers center Scott Laughton (21) during the second period of an NHL hockey playoff game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Toronto. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers played like a team making a run as the best in the East before the NHL shutdown.

With hockey back, the streaking Flyers just might get there. With one more win, they’ll earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference in coach Alain Vigneault’s first season.

“I like our work ethic, I like how we’re trying to play the smart way,” Vigneault said.

Philadelphia was smart and tough Thursday against Washington, and the line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny sparked the Flyers to a 3-1 win over the Capitals.

Laughton had two goals and an assist. Hayes had three assists, and Konecny had two assists.

“They’re certainly without a doubt our best line at the moment,” Vigneault said.

The Flyers have won 11 of their last 12 games dating to Feb. 18 — but it’s the two victories in the round-robin series that have the Flyers believing they can go far. The Flyers won nine straight games before losing the final one before the COVID-19 shutdown. The Flyers have resumed the season with wins over Boston and the Capitals in the NHL’s playoff seeding round and can’t finish any worse than second in the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers play Tampa Bay on Saturday. The winner will earn the top seed in the East.

“So far, so good,” Hayes said.

Vigneault, who led the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final, has made all the right moves in his first season on the bench. The outlook is suddenly bright for a franchise going on 45 years without a championship.

Travis Sanheim also scored and Brian Elliott stopped 16 shots to keep the Flyers perfect this season (4-0-1) against the Capitals. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has failed to score against the Flyers this season.

“We’re still looking for that extra gear that we all know we have,” Capitals right winger T.J. Oshie said. “The point of these games obviously is for the seeding, but for us personally we need to get our game where we need it to be.”

Laughton gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period after capitalizing on a turnover, beating Braden Holtby. Laughton scored again to make it 3-0 in the third.

Hayes had his first career three-point playoff game.

“Great game @NHLFlyers. Our depth is really showing,” retired Flyers great Eric Lindros tweeted.

Travis Boyd scored for the Capitals on a deflection in the third to make it 3-1. Washington is 0-2 on the restart.

“We have to handle ourselves a little bit better emotionally,” forward Nic Dowd said of the Capitals’ seven penalties.

The Flyers entered the round robin as the fourth seed in the East and missed the playoffs last season. Yet a win over Tampa Bay on Saturday earns them the top spot in the East. The Flyers haven’t reached the second round since 2012, the Final since 2010 or won it all since 1975.

The Capitals play the Boston Bruins on Sunday for the No. 3 seed.

Canucks top Wild 3-0

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Brock Boeser and Elias Petterson each had a power-play goal and an assist, Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves for his first postseason shutout, and the Vancouver Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead Thursday in their best-of-five qualifier series.

Antoine Roussel and Elias Pettersson also scored and Quinn Hughes had three assists for the Canucks, who outlasted the Wild in another penalty-filled, extra-testy matchup and moved within one game of advancing to the first round in their first appearance in the playoffs since 2015.

“Our players need to gain experience in these type of games, but we’re not just here to get experience,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “We want to win the games.”

The Canucks blocked 22 shots in the empty arena.

“Every time there was a blocked shot, everybody’s banging their sticks and yelling, and that gives energy and adrenaline,” Markstrom said. “It’s not only big hits and goals that guys are cheering for.”

The teams played 33:49 without scoring, until Boeser got Vancouver going late in the second period with a falling-down backhander off the ricochet from Pettersson’s shot.

“Just picking up trash,” Boeser said, laughing.

Boeser, a native of Minnesota who grew up about 20 miles from the Wild’s arena, has three points in three games. He scored on the sixth anniversary of his friend Ty Alyea’s death in a car accident, marking the moment by pointing upward after his goal.

“To be able to get one for him, it’s something special,” Boeser said. “Yeah, it’s an emotional day for sure, and I tried to make the most of it out on the ice.”

Boeser, part of the tantalizing young core that Vancouver have built around, had a sub-standard regular season, but the Canucks have raved about the way the 23-year-old’s game has evolved.

“You want to score at this time of the year, you can’t just wait for a shot,” Green said. “You’ve just got to get your nose dirty and find a way to score.”

Roussel made it 2-0 just 2:18 into the third by blowing by Wild defenseman Brad Hunt on a breakaway and flipping the puck over Wild goalie Alex Stalock’s left shoulder with a backhand shot. Stalock made 26 saves.

Pettersson added the insurance goal, his first career postseason score, with 1:22 left on the seventh power play of the game for the Canucks. The Wild went 0 for 7 and are 2 for 17 for the series.

“We’re a good team when we play desperate, so it should bring out our best hockey tomorrow,” forward Marcus Foligno said.

The frequent whistles played to Vancouver’s advantage, putting that talented top line on the ice time after time and minimizing Minnesota’s forward depth in 5-on-5 play.

“We’ve talked ’til we’re blue in the face about staying off the referees and not taking bad penalties, and we did that as a group,” Wild coach Dean Evason said.

There were countless scrums, hits and shoves throughout the contest, with both Markstrom and Stalock taking a few blows around the net themselves. At one point, Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman tried to check Jay Beagle and wound up hitting teammate Carson Soucy. Hartman took a boarding penalty in the second period, hitting Pettersson head first into the boards while Pettersson was bent over. Then J.T. Miller attacked Hartman, and both players were called for roughing.

“It just seemed like when you did get something going, it was either power play or penalty kill,” Foligno said. “We’re such a good 5-on-5 team and when we can roll four lines, we’re really good. We’re just kind of getting a little bit stung by that, and we definitely just have to calm it down a little bit with the penalties.”

Game 4 is on Friday night at Rogers Place at 10:45 p.m. EDT.

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