LOS ANGELES - For a few hours, Brian Boucher moved from his usual seat on the Philadelphia Flyers' bench to the centre of the Los Angeles Kings' target during a 21-shot third period.
No wonder this former boy wonder-turned-backup was grateful to sit down again.
Mika Pyorala scored his first NHL goal, Boucher made 37 saves in his first victory since his return to Philadelphia, and the Flyers opened a five-game trip with their seventh win in eight games, 3-2 over the Kings on Wednesday night.
Boucher arrived in Philadelphia 10 years ago as the Flyers' potential saviour in net, but his career hasn't gone as many expected while he bounced around the NHL and the minors. He returned to the Flyers this fall after two seasons as a backup with the San Jose Sharks, but Ray Emery started 16 of the Flyers' first 17 games, and Boucher lost his only other start.
Boucher's night at Staples Center began inauspiciously when he allowed Jarrett Stoll's halfhearted fling from the corner to get past him late in the first period, but he found his groove by the frantic final minutes.
"It feels good to finally get that one," said Boucher, who spent his first three NHL seasons with Philadelphia. "It would have been nice to get it at home in front of the fans, but this was a really important game for us."
Mike Richards and James van Riemsdyk also scored, and Braydon Coburn had two assists for the Flyers, who played 12 of their previous 15 games at home and hadn't left the East Coast this season before the five-game trip.
Drew Doughty trimmed the Flyers' lead with a power-play goal on a long slap shot with 7:51 to play, but Los Angeles couldn't even it despite outshooting Philadelphia 21-5 in the third period. The Kings had a golden chance while Jonathan Quick was pulled with 15 seconds left, but Michal Handzus' tip in front of Boucher skittered under the goalie and missed the post by perhaps an inch.
"Clearly we're going to need (Boucher) to win us some hockey games as we move through the schedule here in November and December and on throughout the year," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "It's great to see him get in and have some success."
Stoll had a goal and an assist, and Quick stopped 17 shots for the Kings, who have lost two straight at home after a fruitful five-game trip. Before the game, Los Angeles confirmed top-line left wing Ryan Smyth has an apparently serious upper-body injury and could be out for a month.
NHL points leader Anze Kopitar was held scoreless for just the fifth time this season. He hasn't scored a goal in five games, his longest drought of the season.
"It was a game that I think we're going to look at as one we gave away," Kopitar said. "We were playing decent, except for those two breakdowns in the second period that cost us two goals. It's definitely the time of the game where you want to score and get a two-goal lead. Unfortunately, we didn't."
The Kings got their first taste of life without Smyth, the 15-year veteran whose steady presence at Kopitar's side has propelled Los Angeles to a solid start. Coach Terry Murray replaced Smyth on the top line with Alexander Frolov, who's been shaky this fall after leading the Kings with 32 goals last season.
"We played well enough to win, but the Flyers played a real good road game," Murray said. "They played smart. They're a good team and they've got some premiere players. They capitalized on turnovers, mistakes and decisions we made, and they won because of it."
After Stoll scored his third goal in five games in the first period, Pyorala tied it midway through the second, flipping home a rebound with a backhand while falling face first to the ice. The 28-year-old Finnish centre hadn't scored in his first 17 games with the Flyers, who signed him in July after he played in Sweden last winter.
Philadelphia took control after its first goal, dominating puck possession before Richards put the Flyers ahead late in the second period with a one-timer on a behind-the-net pass from Claude Giroux. Van Riemsdyk then boosted the lead with a goal in his third straight game early in the third period, deflecting a rebound off Quick.
NOTES: Los Angeles also played without D Rob Scuderi (lower body). ... Richards began the season with six goals in five games, but has just three in 13 games since. ... Los Angeles got a full two-minute two-man advantage late in the first period, but was terribly disorganized and barely managed a shot on net. ... Actor Vince Vaughn attended the game.