LOS ANGELES - The cliché says it's not how you start, but how you finish.
That's a good thing for Brian Boucher. Boucher, making just his second start of the season and his first since Oct. 25, had a rough first period but rallied to make 37 saves and lead the Flyers to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings last night in the first game of a five-game road trip.
Jarret Stoll's weak wrister from the boards on Boucher's short side found its way through his five-hole to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the first period.
"I don't know what the heck happened," Boucher said. "I've had a couple weird ones this year. But I was determined that wasn't going to be a big factor in the rest of the game."
Boucher's first period was so shaky that he was even credited with three giveaways for errant passes.
It looked like déjà vu for Boucher, who gave up four goals that he called "awful" in a 4-1 loss to another West Coast team, San Jose, at the Wachovia Center on Oct. 25.
Rather than let the demons that have been dancing in his head since that game bite him, Boucher got better as the game went on and the Flyers rebounded for a win at the Staples Center. James van Riemsdyk scored the game-winning goal for the second game in a row.
Mika Pyorala picked up for Boucher 7:52 into the second period with his first career goal. Pyorala dove after a Scott Hartnell rebound and chipped the puck with his backhand over Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
"It was interesting to see how excited the guys got for him,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I hope that can get him going now.''
Sometime around 6:40 a.m. in Oulu, Finland - 5,314 miles from Los Angeles and halfway around the world with 10 hours in time difference - Pyorala's parents probably jumped off their couch.
"I hope so,'' Pyorala said, when asked if they were watching live.
Pyorala said a few weeks ago that his parents stay awake all night to watch his games live. He said that they get the Flyers' broadcasts piped through the Internet and a special hookup plays on their television.
"They are my biggest fans,'' Pyorala said earlier this season. "It's a long way and my parents are still working. My dad used to coach me in youth hockey and juniors; they basically live hockey.''
Pyorala was relieved to finally get the monkey off his back. His teammates have joked with him about his scoreless drought, saying he could have scored a hat trick with all his opportunities.
Pyorala scored 28 goals with Karpat in the Finnish Elite League 2 years ago, in a league in which goals are hard to come by.
"Of course it is a big relief for me,'' Pyorala said last night. "I have had really good scoring chances before. I don't even want to know how many I've had. But I am glad I got this one.''
Mike Richards added another tally 11 minutes after Pyorala's goal. Richards pounded a one-timer past Quick with just 1:05 remaining in the second period to give the Flyers a lead heading into the third period.
Van Riemsdyk increased the lead to 3-1 just minutes into the third period with a nifty putback off a Braydon Coburn shot. Coburn's wide shot caromed off the boards behind the net and right to van Riemsdyk's stick; he went backhand and forehand before stuffing it behind Quick.
Drew Doughty made it an interesting final 7:51 in front of 17,821 screaming fans. His one-time power-play blast that beat a screened Boucher pulled the Kings within one.
Boucher was much better as the game went on. In all, Boucher stopped 37 of 39 shots. In the third period, where the Kings outshot the Flyers 21-5, Boucher made multiple huge pad saves to keep the Flyers in front.
He was able to keep the NHL's leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, off the board. Kopitar has 14 goals and 32 points. The Slovenian star nearly found the twine in the first period on a wicked turnaround blast, but the shot hit the crossbar.
With the Kings' net empty for the final minute, Boucher stood tall as he stuffed Alexander Frolov on a wraparound attempt with just 30 seconds left. Kopitar had a shot to tie with under 10 seconds but Boucher pushed it wide.
The Flyers are 11-0-1 when leading after the second period . . . Dan Carcillo led the Flyers (12-5-1) with four hits . . . Jeff Carter won an impressive eight of 11 faceoffs.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.