BOSTON - Playing hard for three periods has not been one of the Flyers' trademarks during this sad-sack season.

Tonight was an exception.

They put a solid 60-minute effort together, got a late goal from Kimmo Timonen, and defeated the streaking Boston Bruins, 3-1, before a sellout crowd at TD Banknorth Garden.

It marked just the fifth time all season that the Flyers had overcome a deficit to win.

Timonen scored on a point drive - his first goal in the last 28 games - that appeared to deflect off the stick of Boston's Blake Wheeler with 9 minutes, 32 seconds left, snapping a 1-1 tie and giving the Flyers just their second win in the last nine games.

With 40 seconds left and the Flyers killing a Scott Hartnell penalty, Timonen scored on a length-of-the-ice shot into an open net. Timonen had the 13th three-point game of his career.

The Flyers are 2-4 under new coach Peter Laviolette.

Because of an injury suffered by Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, they played most of the game with just five defensemen. Tollefsen will miss three to four weeks with a knee sprain, general manager Paul Holmgren said.

The defensive corps was already thin because Braydon Coburn was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Boston's defense was also shorthanded because of an injury to Dennis Wideman.

Losers of 10 of their previous 12, the Flyers beat a Bruins team that had been on a major roll. The Flyers started the night 13th in the Eastern Conference, but just four points behind eighth-place Montreal.

"We're working hard. We just have to start chipping away," rookie left winger James van Riemsdyk said before the game.

The Flyers' power play continued to struggle, going 0 for 3 in the first period, including a five-on-three advantage that lasted 1:12. During the two-man advantage, goalie Tim Thomas was forced to make just one save as the Bruins blocked three shots.

Still, it was an effective first period for the Flyers, who outshot the hosts, 14-7.

After a between-period pee-wee exhibition that drew loud roars when a fight broke out, Boston dominated the first part of the second period, forcing Brian Boucher to make keys saves on Byron Bitz (slot), Zdeno Chara (doorstep) and Daniel Paille (left circle) to keep the game scoreless.

Boucher finished with 26 saves.

In an effort to jump-start an offense that had produced just six goals in its last seven losses, Laviolette moved Jeff Carter, a center, to right wing on a line with center Mike Richards and left winger Dan Carcillo.

The line had several chances in the first two periods but could not find the net.

Boston, 8-1-2 in its previous 11 games, took a 1-0 lead when Vladimir Sobotka redirected Shawn Thornton's right-circle shot past Boucher with 1:28 left in the second period.

But van Riemsdyk took a corner pass from Arron Asham and tapped a shot past Thomas from out front, tying the score at 1-1 with 17:12 to play in the third period. It was van Riemsdyk's seventh goal and it snapped his 12-game goalless streak.

Tonight was a preview of the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, when the teams will meet at venerable Fenway Park.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.