Vancouver Canucks defenseman Taylor Ellington (77) and Calgary Flames defenseman Derek Smith (27) fight for control of the puck during third pre-season NHL hockey action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. The Canucks went on to win the game 4-3. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VANCOUVER - Rookie Nicklas Jensen was anxious to check the messages on his telephone when he got home Tuesday night.
The big forward from Denmark had already sent a message to the Vancouver Canucks they made a wise choice taking him in the first round of this year's draft.
Jensen made an impression in his first NHL exhibition game, scoring the go-ahead goal in the third period and adding an assist as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Calgary Flames 4-3.
"There was a lot of nerves before the game,'' the smiling 18-year-old said in the Canucks dressing room. "I've been thinking about this for quite a while now.
"A goal and an assist. It wasn't too bad. I was happy with the way it ended.''
Jensen said his father Dan, a Canadian living in Denmark, likely watched the game on television.
"He's probably really happy back home,'' said Jensen. "There's probably a message or two on the phone right now.''
The six-foot-three, 186-pound forward, who Vancouver selected 29th overall in this year's draft, is a fluid skater with good hands around the net.
He used his size and hard shot to snap a 3-3 tie at the seven-minute mark of the third. Jensen skated the puck from out behind the Calgary net and fired a shot from a sharp angle that went under the arm of Flames goaltender Leland Irving.
"My strongest side is definitely offence,'' said Jensen, who had 29 goals and 58 points in 61 games with the OHL Oshawa Generals last season. "When I have the puck, shooting and scoring is my best thing.''
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault was impressed with what he saw.
"You can really see a young man there that's got real good size and really enjoys the game,'' said Vigneault.
"I think there's a tremendous amount of potential there. It's really fun to see.''
Marco Sturm, Vancouver's biggest free-agent signing of the off-season, and Jordan Schroeder also had a goal and an assist. Defenceman Chris Tanev scored short-handed for the Stanley Cup finalist Canucks.
The line of Jensen, Schroeder and Steve Pinizzotto was one of the most productive for Vancouver. Pinizzotto, a 27-year-old who played for the AHL Hershey Bears, had two assists.
"We wanted to go out there and show our best,'' said Jensen. "It was the will of our line.
"Nobody on our line wanted to give up and we wanted to show our best every time we were out there.''
Niklas Hagman scored twice for the Flames, once on the power play. Mikael Backlund scored Calgary's other goal.
A split squad of Canucks and Flames faced each other on two fronts. The teams also played in Calgary with the Flames winning 5-1.
A small crowd watched the game at Rogers Arena. The last hockey game played in the building was June 15 when the Canucks were beaten 4-0 by the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final
Cory Schneider started in goal for Vancouver, stopping 17 of 20 shots before being replaced by Eddie Lack midway through the second period. Lack finished making 12 saves.
Irving played the whole game for Calgary, stopping 18 shots.
It was a good opening night for Sturm, who the Canucks signed to a one-year deal worth US$2.25-million on the first day of free agency. The 33-year-old German, who has a history of knee problems, split last season between the L.A. Kings and Washington Capitals.
"It's definitely a relief when you score the first one,'' said Sturm.
"I want to prove something to myself. I know I can do it and work hard at it. I think this is a great opportunity. I have to make sure I am ready for that.''
Sturm tied the game for Vancouver midway through the first period. Owen Nolan, the 39-year-old veteran who is looking to earn a spot with Vancouver, won a faceoff in the Calgary zone, sending the puck back to defenceman Aaron Rome.
Irving stopped Rome's blast from the point, but Sturm collected the rebound, then slid it past the goaltender's foot.
Tanev made a pretty play at both ends of Vancouver's secondgoal. The tall, lanky defenceman made a perfect clearing pass to Sturm, then broke up the ice. Sturm held the puck, then sent a pass back to Tanev, who beat the Flame goaltender.
In 29 games with as a rookie with the Canucks last year Tanev managed one assist.
The odds are against Jensen being in the Canucks lineup when they open the regular season Oct. 6 against Pittsburgh.
"I just try to take it day by day,'' he said. "I want to stay here for as long as possible. I want to show my best every time I am here.''
Notes: Canuck players watching from the press box included Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Kevin Bieksa, and Dan Hamhuis. ...Prior to the game there was a moment of silence for former Canucks Rick Rypien, Barry Wilkins and Pavol Demitra who all died during the summer. Rypien was found dead in his Alberta home, Wilkins died of cancer and Demitra was a member of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team who were killed in a plane crash in Russia.. ..The six-foot-five Lack says he's added "three pounds of muscle'' and is now 194 pounds.
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