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Big Ern, Peters and teammates weigh in on important game by Lucic

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

If any man fully comprehends what it's like to have the C of Red staunchly in his corner, that man just might be Big Ern.

"You saw tonight what his physical presence can bring," said the immensely-popular Brian McGrattan, off to the side, watching pal Milan Lucic being interviewed on Rogers Sportsnet post-game just outside the double-doors leading into the Flames' inner sanctum.

"How that presence is felt. By both teams.

"On that goal, I mean, the D-man wanted no part of that puck.

"He brings energy to the line-up. Brings energy to the room. He skates well. Everyone knows when he's on the ice, at all times. And he's a lovable guy. 

"When he starts rolling, he's someone the rest of the team can get behind."

A heartfelt serenade of "Looooooooch!'', blanketing the inside of the Scotiabank Saddledome, heralded the big man's first point as a Flame - a helper - during Thursday's 5-1 takedown of the Detroit Red Wings.

"It's nice to hear," acknowledged Lucic. "You definitely appreciate it as a player, that's for sure. To know your fans have your back, want you to score, want you to do well, want you to succeed.

"So you do whatever you can to bring your best effort and give them what they want."

Lucic broke his production duck in signature style, wallpapering Detroit defenceman Alex Biega along the end boards, before spotting Sam Bennett lurking with intent only feet away, at the side of the net.

Quick pass, fast release and a vital third goal at 3:29 of the third period, providing a welcome measure of wiggle room for the locals.

Next shift out, Lucic generated a pair of gilt-edged, in-close cracks against Jimmy Howard that could've open his goal account here, seconds before Wings' D-man Philip Hronek - the opposite No. 17 - prodded the puck into his own net, the goal being credited to Derek Ryan.

Lucic was a major component in a 19-shot Flames' final period that tipped the scales irrevocably in their favour.

"That was a big play by him on the forecheck,'' agreed Flames' coach Bill Peters. "He got there. You know what I mean? Made the turnover and made the play to Benny.

"In the third it came down to us having the puck more. That's how we want to play. We want to hold the puck. We want to make plays. We want to be responsible with the puck.

"Looch was good. He had a big impact."


Video: "You need that contribution throughout the lineup"


That he did, echoed Ryan.

"He's been getting dialled in," said the versatile centreman, "getting more comfortable in where he fits into the team; holding the puck, making plays, getting in on the forecheck."

And the style points attached to his first snipe of the season?

"That" confessed Ryan, "was kind of an ugly one. But it feels good either way."

The triumph was marred by the loss of both Andrew Mangipane to an awkward fall and leading goal producer Elias Lindholm to a nasty slash that netted Darren Helm of the Wings a five-minute major and an early shower. A back-to-back in L.A. and then Anaheim awaits this weekend.

The highest-profile off-season addition to the Calgary lineup will be looking to build on his finest performance of the early season on the weekend in California.

"I just felt like every game has gone better and better in creating chemistry with guys, even though the lines have been all over the place in the bottom six," said Lucic.

"But these last two games I think as the bottom six we've stepped up and scored some big goals.

"It's everything to a team's success. You look at the teams that finish on top of the standings every year and they get contribution throughout. You look at the Stanley Cup winner at the end of every year and it's not just two-three guys or two lines carrying the load.

"You need that contribution through. Maybe we needed to get challenged a little sooner as a group about our secondary scoring.

"But it's a good feeling to help out, to contribute."
Big Ern figures the big train is just starting to pick up a head of steam, heading out of the station and out into open country.

"The season's still young," he said remindfully. "There are a lot of games left.

"He came here to be a presence and if he keeps playing the way he did tonight he won't have any issues collecting points and leaving his mark down the road."

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