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Avs Lose Tough One In Columbus

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

It was one of those nights where the Colorado Avalanche probably deserved better.

Despite falling down 1-0 in the first minute of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Avs battled back to tie it before controlling play for much of the remainder of the contest. However, a Columbus shot from the outside took a fortunate redirection into the back of the net with 1:07 left in the third period and Colorado lost 2-1 on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.

Avalanche goaltender Calvin Pickard had just made the save of the night seconds earlier with a cross-crease pad stop, but he had no chance on the denying the game-winner. Jack Johnson's shot from the point skipped off Cody McLeod's skate and fluttered past Pickard.

The Avs outshot the Blue Jackets 30-21 in the contest and by a 13-6 margin in the second period.

"We were really sharp tonight, except for that first shift where they scored that first goal. Other than this, we were impeccable in our own end," said head coach Patrick Roy. "I thought we certainly deserved more than that, but that is the way this game is. You're going to win some that you don't deserve to win, and you're going to lose some that you deserve to win and tonight is an example."

Roy certainly didn't blame Pickard, as only the first and last shots of the night were able to get past the netminder.

"Pick made some good saves for us, but again in a game like this, you never know what can happen," Roy said. "Unfortunately, the bounce didn’t go our way tonight."

The Jackets opened the scoring after Seth Jones and Ryan Murray fought for a loose puck and found Brandon Dubinsky alone in front for a goal 58 second into the contest.

It was not the way the Avs wanted to start the first game of a two-stop road trip, but Roy was fairly pleased with his team's response after it.

"We got beat on the board, and I don't think we tracked really well on that play," Roy said of Dubinsky's score. "That is why I said other than the first shift, I thought we played really well defensively. The chances we gave them, they came from our turnovers. It's a team with some good forwards, and they're capable of going in transition. But I thought we played well."

The Avs figured out the flow of the game after those opening minutes and started to attack themselves.

"It was a little bit of a slow start," said forward Blake Comeau. "I thought we did some good things later on. Couple turnovers, they created some chances."

Colorado came out of the first intermission strong, firing six shots in the first six minutes before Chris Wagner tied the contest 1-1. The Avs had six shots in the first period, while holding the Jackets to only five.

Wagner's fourth goal of the season was the result of quick passes on a rush. He fed Jarome Iginla to the right side and sliced to the front of the net where Iginla passed the puck back to the 24-year-old for a tip that squeaked by Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

It was the second consecutive game that Wagner was playing in after he had been a healthy scratch for the previous 14. He said he used the time away from the ice to watch and learn.

"You want to see how the guys are playing, what tendencies we might have," Wagner said. "We played a good amount of games against the Central, so you kind of want to study them if you get a chance to play against them. You just try and work hard in the gym and on the ice after practice just to be ready."

Wagner will likely get a chance to face one of those Central Division foes on Monday when Colorado closes the trip in Winnipeg. Just two points separate the Avs and Jets in the standings.

Colorado has won the previous two meetings against Winnipeg this season.

BIGRAS RECORDS FIRST POINT

One game after making his NHL debut, defenseman Chris Bigras picked up his first NHL point.

Bigras assisted on Chris Wagner's goal in the second period that tied the contest at 1-1. He was instrumental on the tally as he stripped the puck, brought it into the zone and dished it off to Wagner before the give-and-go with Jarome Iginla.

"As I've been playing, I've been more and more comfortable," Bigras said of the timing of his first point. "So regardless if it comes now or a little bit later, it's just feeling more comfortable on the ice and getting involved in the play more."

Selected No. 32 overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Bigras made his debut on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils. He played with Zach Redmond on the Avs' third defensive pairing and finished with two hits and a penalty in 13:43 of ice time in that contest.

The Orillia, Ontario, native was once again with Redmond on Saturday in Columbus. He also ended the night with a shot and a hit in his 10:05 on the ice.

PICKARD BACK IN NET

Coming off a 27-save shutout, the first of his NHL career, Colorado netminder Calvin Pickard got the nod in net for the second straight game on Saturday. Pickard finished with 19 stops, which included nine in the third period.

"He was very good," head coach Patrick Roy said of his goalie. "He didn't give much, but in those key moments he made those important saves for us."

Before the contest, Roy said Pickard deserved the start after his performance against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday and also stated it would allow Semyon Varlamov a little more rest as well.

Varlamov is slated to be in goal on Monday in Winnipeg, starting a week that sees the Avalanche play three of its four games against Central Division teams.

Pickard has primarily been Varlamov's backup since being recalled from San Antonio on Dec. 25. Reto Berra, who is Varlamov's usual backup, is still out with an ankle injury.

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