It’s amazing the great things that a team can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit.
Dustin Brown’s name may not wind up on the score sheet, but he played a major role in helping Team USA reach the gold-medal game with a 6-1 semifinal victory over Finland.
Brown, who makes his living wreaking havoc on L.A. Kings' opponents, used his hustle to bait Finland players into taking back-to-back penalties early in the first period that resulted in two U.S. power-play goals on the way to a 6-0 first period lead.
Brown, who is in his sixth season with the Kings, has consistently been among the NHL leaders in hits. Playing on the NHL-sized ice, Brown brought his A – as in aggressive – game to Vancouver, hitting everything with and without the puck as part of the relentless American forecheck.
Brown logged 14.56 minutes of ice time, had zero shots on goal and finished with a plus 2. But his value to this team goes well beyond the stat sheet.
“One of the aspects of my game is my physical play, and if I’m not scoring I have to be doing something else to help this team,” said the Ithaca, N.Y. native.
“Tonight I thought I was pretty physical and drew a couple of penalties and we capitalized early on both of them. Anyway I can help that’s what I’ll do.”
Playing with Brown in L.A. for the past four seasons, Jack Johnson is glad to have Brown on his side.
“His peers know that he had a phenomenal game even though he didn’t put anything up on the score sheet. He made all the great little plays and did what he had to do to help us win the game,” Johnson said.
“Whether he doesn’t score or even get a shot on goal, that doesn’t mean anything to the other guys in the locker room. We just know that he came ready to play and that’s all that matters.”
After Ryan Malone put the U.S. up 1-0, it was Brown’s hustle that gave the Americans their first power play as he was pulled down by defenseman Janne Niskala. It took just 23 seconds for the U.S. find the back of the net as Zach Parise converted a goalmouth pass for an easy tap in.
Brown rejoined the fray less than a minute later. Playing the puck along the sideboards, he shielded the puck with his body as defenseman Toni Lydman plastered him against the glass.
Erik Johnson was the beneficiary on that power play, pinching in from the point to convert on a Joe Pavelski rebound.
“If you look at most of our goals, other than the power-play goals, we got on the forecheck and they made a few turnovers as the result of our hard work,” Brown said.
“We kept our feet moving and stayed on them and took their time and space away. It’s important for us to do that. Tonight we jumped on them before they were really ready.”
Brown was back at it again, creating havoc in front of the Finnish net as Patrick Kane retrieved his own rebound and backhanded it home to send goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff packing at the 10:08 mark of the first period.
“Kane is a special player. When he gets those opportunities he buries them,” Brown said.
“He’s a skilled player and if you give him an opportunity he’s going to score. He had a lot of time and space to do that today.”
After representing the United States in six international competitions, including five IIHF World Championships and one World Junior Championship, Brown is enjoying his time on the big stage and is making the most of it, even if his name doesn’t end up in the box score.
“You get into a tournament like this and quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win a medal,” Brown said. “I’m willing to do whatever I can to give our team a chance to win.”