TAMPA — Maybe it was the mental break.
Maybe it was the beach.
Or, perhaps, J.T. Brown is just finally getting rewarded.
But Brown, 25, has been on a roll, racking up three goals in the five games since the All-Star break, when he and a few teammates took a trip to Mexico.
"He keeps joking, 'We've got to get back to Cancun every day off,' " center Tyler Johnson said, laughing.
The results are new, Brown's four goals in seven games giving him a career-high of seven, equaling his past two seasons combined. And with 17 points he's within two of his career high. But you can argue that Brown has been the Lightning's most consistent forward, his plus-13 second on the team to Vladislav Namestnikov (plus-16) heading into today's game against the Blues at Amalie Arena.
"He deserves everything he's getting," coach Jon Cooper said. "You can't ask for more effort and tenacity that kid is giving us now. It's paying off by the points he's getting for us. They're all richly deserved. That kid has been working his tail off."
The Lightning's play has fluctuated throughout this up-and-down season but Brown has brought the same energy and two-way play. Take Monday's 5-1 loss in Ottawa, a clunker and "mailed-in effort," as center Brian Boyle called it. Brown had the team's only goal with five shots.
"We walked out of there saying, 'Okay, who played well?' " associate coach Rick Bowness said. "Well there was one guy and it was Brownie."
That goal came in front of the net, Brown redirecting Braydon Coburn's point shot before backhanding in the rebound. Friday, Brown tied the score in the second period with a second effort in front, putting in his own rebound during a 4-3 overtime win over Nashville.
Even with just a 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame, Brown isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas — maybe that's a trait from his father Ted, a former NFL running back.
"I've said this a few times, sometimes it doesn't work for you," Brown said. "It's just happening to be good on the timing right now. And over the last few ones, it's a matter of inches where it goes in or it hits the post and goes out or the goalie makes the save. Right now, I'm just going to keep going with it."
Brown, a staple on the shutdown third line with Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan, has been rewarded with more ice time, especially late in games. And the timing of Brown's impactful play is also good as he is a restricted free agent after the season.
"He's a guy that you love to see succeed because he battles so hard night in and night out," Johnson said. "I just love watching him play. For him to get rewarded like this, and be on the roll the way he is, I can't be happier for the guy. It's awesome."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.