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Bigras Scores First NHL Goal

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

ST. PAUL, Minn.—The only thing that would have made the evening better for Colorado Avalanche defenseman Chris Bigras was if the team could have picked up the victory.

Bigras tallied his first NHL goal Tuesday night, but the Colorado Avalanche fell 6-3 to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

It was bittersweet for the young blueliner as he fulfilled a dream, but the Avs lost ground in the race toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It is something that I won't forget," Bigras said following the game. "It would have been nice to get the win as well. Coming down the stretch here, every point is important, but it is certainly something that I'll remember."

On a delayed penalty, Bigras received a cross-ice pass from Matt Duchene and fired a shot into an open net as Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk was scrambling to get back into position. Duchene had jumped on the ice as the extra attacker after a Wild player drew a penalty for throwing his stick to a teammate while the Avs were on a rush the other way.

Bigras scored at 3:25 of the second period to cut the Avalanche's deficit to 3-2.

"Dutchy had the puck; I think he was the sixth man coming off the bench there," Bigras said. "I knew there was an opportunity and they kind of got lost on that, and he made a nice play to find me."

Bigras was playing in his 21st consecutive game since being recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Jan. 13. He made his NHL debut the following night against New Jersey and his comfort level on the back end has been increasing ever since.

Colorado's second-round choice in the 2013 draft, Bigras is getting used to the speed of the NHL and appears to be making strides in how to play certain situations on defense.

"I'm trying to jump into the offense more now that I’m more comfortable out there and knowing my angles and when is a good time to go in," Bigras said. "Just trying to pick my spots."

His goal was just that. He made a split-second decision to jump up into open space at the left circle, and he was rewarded for the choice.

Bigras was solid in junior with the Owen Sound Attack and began his professional career the same way. He ranked second among Rampage defensemen in scoring at the time of his call up, recording 19 points (six goals and 13 assists) in 37 American Hockey League games.

Colorado's coaching staff has been easing the rookie into NHL action over the last month, keeping him on the third defensive pairing and not giving him too much responsibility too early.

"It's been a learning process, but it's been a lot of fun," Bigras said. "It's been a dream come true. The guys have been great here with helping me through that process and learning while I'm up here."

If he keeps making progress like he has so far in his short time in the NHL, he might just stay there.

PICKARD TO START VS. FLORIDA

Calvin Pickard made 15 saves in relief of Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov on Tuesday night and will likely get the start on Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

"He is probably going to play the next game, yes," Roy said of Pickard after the contest in Minnesota.

Varlamov made nine saves on 12 shots in the first period as the Wild scored twice on breakaways and another on an odd-man rush. He was removed from the crease prior to the start of the middle stanza.

Pickard made all eight saves in the second period to help the club rebound from a two-goal deficit and tie the contest at 3-3 going into the third period.

"Yeah, we made some mistakes, but at the same time, these are important saves," Roy said of the goals against in the first frame. "That's what Pickard did at the start of the second. I know it was breakaways and I know it was a 2-on-1, but we could have done better in those areas. That is part of the game.

"I'm not going to throw Varly under the bus here. There are highs and lows in a career, and those things happen. Right now, it's bit of a tougher time for him and Picks has been playing really well. I'll probably go with him against the Panthers."

Pickard has won each of his last two starts. He made 25 saves on Feb. 20 at Edmonton and stopped 20 shots last Wednesday against San Jose.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT

It took less than a minute for Mikkel Boedker to get his first point in an Avalanche uniform.

Boedker assisted on Jarome Iginla's power-play goal 33 seconds into the first period to give Colorado an early 1-0 lead in Minnesota.

"I think it's always good when you can take the lead, and the power play got off to a good start," Boedker said. "Tyson [Barrie] made a nice play over to Iggy, and Iggy got a slap shot off there so it was good."

The left wing was acquired by Colorado from Arizona on Monday at the NHL Trade Deadline, and he joined defenseman Eric Gelinas, who came over in a trade from New Jersey, as players that made their Avalanche debuts on Tuesday.

Boedker played on one of the Avs' top forward lines with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. He added two shot attempts with his assist in 16:41 of ice time.

"I think you get better as the game goes on," Boedker said of building chemistry with his new linemates. "You talk on the bench and you get a feel for each other. Things progressed pretty well, but we got to be better."

Roy was fairly pleased with what he saw from his new forward.

"I thought he was fine. First game, he was getting used to the structure of our team," Roy said. "I thought he was skating well. I thought he had a few good chances on the power play, almost scored off the shin pad of their defenseman."

IGGY STILL ROLLING

Jarome Iginla continued his steady February into the first day of March.

Iginla recorded the game's first goal in the first minute of play on Tuesday in Minnesota as his one-time slap shot beat Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk from the left side during an early Colorado power play. It was his 19th goal of the season and the 608th of his career, tying Dino Ciccarelli for 17th place in NHL history. Bobby Hull is next on the list in 16th place with 610 goals.

The forward led the Avs in scoring in the month of February with 12 points (five goals and seven assists) in 12 games.

Iginla's marker also breaks a tie with Ron Francis for 22nd place on the NHL's all-time power-play goals list with 189. It was his 12th man-advantage tally of the season, the most since Joe Sakic had 16 and Milan Hejduk had 12 in 2006-07.

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