By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As soon as he heard the question being asked in the direction of teammate Jarret Stoll, Kings captain Dustin Brown looked down and started adjusting his cuff links and playing with the sleeves on his dress shirt. It was almost as if Brown was embarrassed that the conversation was again about him after a playoff game.
He should be used to it by now.
Brown scored the winning goal Sunday night for the second straight game and third time in the playoffs. He now has seven goals and six assists in 10 playoff games. His team is 9-1 and three wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final after beating Phoenix, 4-2, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Jobing.com Arena.
Brown had only seven points in his previous 12 playoff games over the last two years, but he's been a huge difference maker this spring.
"He's an all right player, yeah," Stoll said with sarcasm dripping everywhere as Brown fidgeted around in the seat next to him. "He's doing it all for us; both ends of the rink, too. Not just offensively -- which is nice -- but coming back defensively, being physical, leading by example."
Brown's goal 2:11 into the third period was the difference Sunday. He got open in the neutral zone and received a brilliant pass out of the defensive zone by Slava Voynov that sent him in on a semi-breakaway. Brown finished it off by rifling a blocker-side wrist shot past Phoenix goalie Mike Smith from the right circle.
"It was a good play by Brownie," Voynov said. "He had open ice and I saw him."
Brown also made the play to create the Kings' first goal 3:53 into the game. He got the puck deep into the left circle before dropping it back to Anze Kopitar, who took it into the high slot and used his backhand to roof a shot past Smith on the glove side.
Kopitar, who has been teammates with Brown for six seasons in Los Angeles, said the captain has never played any better than he is in this postseason.
"He realizes that we need him to play like that in order to be successful and right now he's clicking on the ice, making plays," Kopitar said. "He's scoring the big goals and that's what good captains and good leaders do."
Drew Doughty, a teammate of Brown's for the last four years since being the No. 2 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, agreed with Kopitar.
"He's been unbelievable," Doughty said. "He's taking the body, sacrificing the body, blocking shots; he's doing every little thing on the ice and that's why he's getting credited with all these points. He's doing all the little things right and when you do that and play good defensive hockey, good things are going to come to you offensively."
Brown did have a minor hiccup late the first period when he was called for interfering with Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival well behind the play. The Kings killed off the penalty that bled into the second period, but coach Darryl Sutter said he knows Brown wanted to take the play back.
He couldn't, but he since the Kings killed off the penalty and Brown scored the winning goal all was forgiven.
"The playoffs have been something for him that he's taken the next step," Sutter said. "That's the key to it. Right now he's a playoff-type player because the game, it's the way you have to play at playoff times. You think about the intensity, the controlled emotion."
Brown has it all going for him now. He probably should get used to the spotlight.
"He doesn't say all the rah-rah stuff sometimes," Stoll said with Brown finally looking ahead, his cuff links in order, "but he definitely speaks on the ice."
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