LOS ANGELES - Goalie Michael Leighton's return was upstaged by the Flyers' new-look offense Thursday night.
With his team in a funk, coach Peter Laviolette changed his three top lines and it keyed the Flyers' 7-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings at the sold-out Staples Center.
Captain Mike Richards collected four points - one shy of his career high - and Claude Giroux had a single-game, personal-best three assists as the Flyers snapped a two-game losing streak.
Richards, who centered Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk, liked the new lines.
"Sometimes, you just need a little shake-up to get things going," he said. "Our forecheck was great tonight, which it wasn't for the last five or six games."
"Every line seemed to be clicking," said Briere, who had a goal and an assist - and a gash above his lip, courtesy of Drew Doughty's stick.
Leighton was shaky in his first start of the season, but Richards (two goals, two assists) led an attack that produced the Flyers' highest output since an 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 18.
"It wasn't our best game, but sometimes you need to win ugly to get going," Briere said.
After a poor first 40 minutes, Leighton was much sharper in the final period.
"When you're off for a long period of time - and you're coming off surgery - and you step back into the National Hockey League, you're probably going to have to feel your way around a little bit," Laviolette said. "It makes it tough on a goaltender. It was good for him to get through it and get some work."
The Flyers moved to within two points of Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh - and they have played two fewer games than the Penguins.
Leighton returned to the nets for the first time since last June's bad-angle, overtime score by Patrick Kane that enabled the Chicago Blackhawks to outlast the gallant Flyers, 4-3, and win the Stanley Cup in Game 6 at the then-named Wachovia Center.
A lot has happened to Leighton since then. Some of it was good - he signed a two-year, $3.1 million contract. Some of it was bad - he underwent back surgery on Oct. 11.
On Thursday, he made his regular-season debut.
It did not start out favorably, but Leighton's teammates supported him by scoring six goals over the first two periods.
About 21/2 minutes into the game, Leighton allowed a goal that was eerily similar to the one Kane scored to win the Cup. Ryan Smyth, from behind the Flyers' net, skated about 20 feet from Leighton on the left and, from behind the goal line, flipped a backhander that went through the goalie's legs.
In addition to giving Leighton a surprise start, Laviolette tweaked all three lines. It was the first time he started a game by breaking up the productive Scott Hartnell-Briere-Ville Leino unit.
Losing the previous two games by a combined 11-2 margin caused Laviolette to do lots of tinkering. He had Jeff Carter centering Leino and Andreas Nodl, Richards centering Briere and van Riemsdyk, and Giroux centering Hartnell and Nik Zherdev.
A little over four minutes after Smyth's goal, Briere tied it at 1, taking a pass from Richards and snapping a right-circle shot over Jonathan Bernier's shoulder for his team-high 18th goal.
"It was a nice play by Richie to find me in a little soft area," said Briere, who played in his 700th career game.
But Leighton surrendered another five-hole goal, this one to former Flyer Justin Williams while the Kings had an extra attacker because of a delayed penalty. From a bad angle deep in the right circle, Williams put a shot between Leighton's legs - it appeared to deflect off Matt Carle's skate - to give the Kings a 2-1 lead with 8 minutes, 56 seconds left in the opening period.
Richards tied it at 2 with 4:12 to go in the first, using Zherdev as a decoy on a two-on-one and firing a shot into the upper left corner. Zherdev came out of the penalty box and joined Richards on the rush.
"I was kind of looking to pass the whole way," Richards said, "but he [Bernier] played it well, so I just shot it on net."
With 15:55 left in the second period, Giroux crossed a pass that deflected off Hartnell's skate and into the net, giving the Flyers a 3-2 lead. It was reviewed in Toronto, and NHL officials ruled it was scored without a kicking motion.
The Flyers, who got power-play goals from Carter and van Riemsdyk, never trailed again.
Los Angeles played its fourth game in five nights - and it showed.