Breakfast around the Lucic household got a whole lot more lively after dad scored his first goal of the season Thursday night.
“She definitely was the happiest of anyone – that was a cool thing for sure,” beamed the Flames 31-year-old father of three. “She saw it and we talked about it (Friday) morning. She was excited to tell her teachers about it. That’s what she said.”
You can bet her teachers already knew, as did everyone else in Calgary where “Looooocch” calls have been ringing out at the Dome all season long.
Popular for his physical play and off-ice approach, the Flames’ toughest player had been waging a war with the hockey gods the first 29 games.
Thriving on a line with Derek Ryan and Dillon Dube the last three weeks, everyone including interim coach Geoff Ward could sense he’d finally smash the goose egg soon. At last, early in the third period of Thursday’s 4-3 win he took a brilliant pass from Ryan in the slot he deposited into an empty net.
Proving nothing has come easy for his this season, the puck rattled off a defender’s stick before finding the net.
“It was great, but more than anything it was just nice to get the win – the two points meant more than anything,” said Lucic, who had just six goals with Edmonton last season. “We all like the way our game is trending and it seems everyone is more involved and contributing. We’re going to need more of that because this is a big month as far as everything goes.”
No, the Flames don’t necessarily need more goals from Lucic – that’s not why he was brought in as part of a summertime exchange of bad contracts with the Oilers that saw James Neal head north. Neal has found instant chemistry in Edmonton to bounce back from his embarrassing stint in Calgary, scoring 14 goals so far.
Although the two veterans will be inextricably linked for the rest of their careers, Lucic has said endlessly he can’t worry about what Neal is doing, as constant comparisons to anyone could drive a man crazy.
Instead, he’s focused on being a physical presence and nuclear deterrent the Flames have long needed, and a popular teammate whose leadership role is perhaps his most valuable contribution.
“It was easy to be the young guy in your early 20s and you get to come to the rink and just play,” smiled the media darling.
“You have a smile on your face and you work hard in practice and games and do your thing and all the older guys take care of all the other stuff. And now (as a veteran) you have to think about how the older guys kind of treated you and motivated you and helped you through your younger 20s, and helped get the best out of you. So you try to do the same thing with guys now, try to lift them up and give them confidence.”
Yet, there was the former 30-goal scorer smashing sticks and cursing the game through an opening third of the season the Flames have faltered tremendously in.
However, three weeks ago young Dube was called up from AHL Stockton and placed opposite Lucic on the third line, sparking instant chemistry on what has been the team’s best line ever since.
So when Lucic finished off the pretty passing play between the three for his first as a Flame, it was Dube who seemed the most excited, leaping into Lucic’s arms as the Saddledome crowd went wild.
“Since that last game in Vegas we’ve been together every game and we’ve created that momentum – it’s been fun,” said Lucic, whose celebration included arms raised triumphantly skyward with a massive smile.
“When you’re down and you’re frustrated, you’re shrugging your shoulders, you’re second-guessing yourself and when you find yourself in those scoring areas, you’re not relaxed, and that’s when it doesn’t end up going in for you. So when you have that positive frame of mind, you start thinking that way and things start to flow. I guarantee if you ask all the top scorers in the league or the top scorers of all-time, they will all tell you that they were always happy and positive and confident every time they were on the ice. That was the thing that I was trying to build towards all year long.”
The Flames host his former team, the Los Angeles Kings, Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada and you can bet Valentina will be watching to see if she has even more to report to her teachers Monday.