Rookie Brown seizing opportunity

The Lightning's J.T. Brown is denied on this chance for a goal vs. the Coyotes but does get his first NHL goal in the game. Getty Images
The Lightning's J.T. Brown is denied on this chance for a goal vs. the Coyotes but does get his first NHL goal in the game.Getty Images
Published November 18 2013

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Given the big smile that accompanied his arm-raising celebration after his first career goal, one might have expected more emotion from J.T. Brown after Saturday's game.

But the Lightning's rookie wing was subdued in the locker room at Arena.

Perhaps it was because Tampa Bay had fallen 6-3 to the Coyotes. But Brown also knows one goal isn't a good indicator of whether a player belongs in The Show.

"I wouldn't say that necessarily," he said when asked if the tally made him feel like an NHLer. "It's only been a few games. It takes a lot more than just getting a goal."

Fair enough, but it also is fair to say Brown, 23, has made the most of his three games since his callup from AHL Syracuse as part of Tampa Bay's retooling after Steven Stamkos' injury.

Brown has a goal and two points, is averaging 15:03 of ice time, and has a spot on the second line and the No. 1 power play. He is fast, creates time and space for himself on the ice, and can shoot.

"He's been one of our best forwards at Syracuse," Crunch general manager Julien BriseBois said. "He plays a strong two-way game … and he's really improved his shot over the last year, so he's more of a threat to score goals. His game is just coming into maturity now."

Tampa Bay signed Brown in March 2012 out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He played five games with an assist that season. But with his speed and nose for the net, his potential was evident.

After an injury-filled 2012-13 season with Syracuse, Brown (5 feet 10, 172 pounds) had four goals and 10 points in 13 games before he was called up Tuesday, the day after Stamkos broke his right tibia.

"He was the obvious callup for us, for someone to play forward for us right now," BriseBois said.

"It's a good opportunity," said Brown, from Rosemount, Minn. "You never want to see anybody get injured. At the same time, I'm here right now, and I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team keep winning."

That Brown last season played for coach Jon Cooper before Cooper was hired by the Lightning has helped the transition. Brown knows Cooper's system, knows what the coach expects from his players.

Cooper called Brown "a guy who has taken this opportunity and seized it."

In a game Saturday in which not much went right for the Lightning, Brown had two shots, a hit, a blocked shot and a takeaway in 16:07 of ice time.

He scored with a high, long-side wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.

"I don't even know what I was thinking, to be honest with you," Brown said of getting his first goal. "I just saw it go in and just kind of celebrated a little bit."