LOS ANGELES - Goalie Michael Leighton's return was upstaged by the Flyers' 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.
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.
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-Danny 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 James 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.
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.
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."
Flyers playing late
Thursday night's game in Los Angeles ended too late for this edition. For coverage, go to http://go.philly.com/flyers.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181