SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. – Sven Baertschi knows he has to back up a smart decision and a pivotal goal with many more of both to be a regular in the NHL.
The Calgary Flames forward scored with nine seconds remaining in the second period Wednesday to deadlock a pre-season game against the Arizona Coyotes. After a scoreless third, Curtis Glencross scored the overtime winner for Calgary in a 4-3 victory in Sylvan Lake, Alta.
Baertschi came off his final major junior season to join the Flames playing out the string in 2012. Calgary’s first-round pick and the No. 13 selection in 2011 inflated expectations with three goals in his first five games with the team.
The 21-year-old Swiss forward has played more games in the American Hockey League than with the parent club in the two seasons since then.
When Brian Burke joined the Flames a year ago as president of hockey operations, he wasn’t complimentary of Baertschi with comments like “big holes” and “lack of commitment.”
“I realized a little while ago now, coming into the league, it’s a different game and every decision you make has got to be the right decision,” Baertschi said. “I’ve been working on it really hard and doing a lot of video. It’s the little details out there I want to do right.
“I think I’m making some really good decisions with the puck. I’m not being selfish out there, but I’m trying to hold onto the puck a little longer. It’s something I’ve been working on all summer, so it’s paying off now.
“I want to prove I can play in this league.”
Sylvan Lake won this year’s Kraft Hockeyville contest, which included a grant of $100,000 for arena upgrades, as well as the right to host an NHL pre-season game. The community of 13,000 is just west of Red Deer.
With a capacity of just under 1,000, the Sylvan Lake Multi-Plex was full and speckled with a few blue Oilers jerseys among red Flames shirts.
Local products Glencross and defenceman Kris Russell added to the sense of occasion by combining on the overtime winner.
Glencross, who grew up in Prevost, re-directed Russell’s shot from the blue-line for a power-play goal at 3:50. Russell is from nearby Caroline.
The roof of the aging Sylvan Lake Arena next door to the Multi-Plex collapsed in January. The city intends to raise $2 million for a multiplex redevelopment project.
“Russ and I both skated in the old barn quite a bit back in the day,” Glencross said. “He made a great shot and I got lucky enough to get my stick on it.”
Deryk Engelland and Brian McGrattan also scored for the Flames, who are 2-1-0 in the pre-season.
“I told the players this morning ‘remember those people coming to the game, they had to fight real hard to get this game,'” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said.
“I’m sure there were lots of other great cities that could have this game and since it’s very close to our market, I think we owed this game to the fans.”
B.J. Crombeen had a goal and an assist and Matt Kassian and Joe Vitale also scored for Arizona. Defenceman Chris Summers had two assists, but was serving a holding penalty when Glencross scored the winner.
Calgary killed off three Arizona power-play chances in the third period and to start overtime.
Arizona goalie Mike McKenna stopped 25 of 28 shots through two periods in his first pre-season action. Brendan Burke turned aside seven of eight in the third and overtime. Burke is the son of Arizona goaltending coach Sean Burke, who played 18 seasons in the NHL.
After 11 saves on 14 shots, Calgary’s Joni Ortio was replaced after two periods by Doug Carr, who stopped all 12 he faced in the third and extra period.
McKenna got a piece of Baertschi’s sharp-angled shot as the second period wound down, but the puck trickled under the goaltender’s arm and into the net.
“A game like tonight, I think I was really comfortable and didn’t make too many bad decisions,” Baertschi said.
“For me, one of the things I’ve been working on is figuring out when to pass and when to shoot. That’s a big part of decision making. At that point, I knew I didn’t have any support coming from behind and it went in and I was happy.”
Arizona led 3-2 at 3:06 when Brandon Gormley’s shot from the top of the face-off circle deflected off Crombeen’s leg and into Calgary’s net.
Flames enforcer McGrattan scored at 1:59 when he banked in a goal-mouth pass from Markus Granlund.
With Calgary trailing 2-0, Edmonton native Engelland threaded a high wrist shot through traffic to halve the deficit with a power-play goal at 19:06.
Arizona’s Vitale batted a rebound out of the air by Ortio at 12:58. Kassian, another Edmontonian invited to Arizona’s camp on a try-out contract, also scored on a rebound from the slot at 8:56.
The Coyotes finished one spot out of a playoff berth last season at 37-30-15, while the Flames were well out of the post-season at 35-40-7.
“We all know and it doesn’t really mean nothing right now, but we played 49 games last year decided by one goal,” Hartley said.
“I keep repeating to our guys, we have to keep making big strides and learning to win those types of games. Come Game 1 of the regular season, whatever we will have done here as a result will not count, but if we can learn those little details we’ll be a better team.”
Wednesday’s pre-season game was the first of three in as many days for the Flames, who host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday in Calgary and play in Vancouver on Friday.
The Coyotes are in San Jose on Friday to face the Sharks and are in Vancouver on Monday.