Both Lindy Ruff and Paul Gaustad said a controversial call by referee Kerry Fraser did not cost the Buffalo Sabres a game against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.
But the Sabres head coach and centremen were nevertheless appalled by a disallowed goal late in the second period, a key play in a 3-2 Canucks victory.
"I understand it, but I don't like it," said Ruff, who went crazy on the bench, yelling and gesticulating at Fraser and co-referee Mike Leggo.
What was the official call?
"That Gaustad had cross-checked their player," Ruff said. "I just felt it was more incidental contact. If you're going to call that, you better call about 75 cross-checks in the game around the front of the net."
The sequence in question was a shorthanded rush by the Sabres late in the second period. A centring pass bounced off Canucks defenceman Christian Ehrhoff and past Roberto Luongo, for what would have been a game-tying goal.
But Fraser and Leggo immediately waved the goal off, then skated to the timekeeper's box in order to speak with the replay official. Video review showed that Gaustad did not kick the puck in, did not interfere with Luongo, and put a gentle stick on Ehrhoff, who seemed off balance.
After review, Gaustad was assessed a cross-checking penalty, which seemed like the referees' way of justifying their original ruling. Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said his bench had been warning the officials all night that the Buffalo forwards had been driving the net hard, and setting up in the crease.
"I just drove the net and the D-man and I collided," Gaustad said. "It was a tough call."
The call didn't pass the sniff test - not at GM Place, where officials are under greater scrutiny these days - and it was immediately offset by a make-up call on Ryan Kesler, who was sent off for an inadvertent elbow.
But when asked if it cost his team two points, Ruff said: "We made enough big mistakes."
They included giving up a breakaway to Henrik Sedin - the NHL's leading scorer - and permitting a rare goal from Canucks defenceman Brad Lukowich.
Vancouver has won five consecutive games and hosts the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday before embarking on a record-long road trip of 14 games - broken into eight- and six-game segments before and after the Olympics. The Sabres, meanwhile, have lost four straight contests and slump home with a 2-3-2 record on their season-long road trip.
Lukowich scored his first goal since November 2007 in the third period on a beautiful drop pass from Daniel Sedin. It came five minutes into the third period and stood as the winner.
"I just put my stick down and screamed like crazy," said Lukowich, a native of Cranbrook, B.C., who has played eight games with the Canucks since being recalled from the minor leagues. "It's been awhile, that's why I looked to the heavens [afterward]"
Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Sedin also scored for the home team, and Alex Burrows extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one point to 12 after a second-period assist. It is the second-longest spurt in the NHL, bettered only by Buffalo's Tim Connolly, who pushed his streak to 16 games on Monday with a helper.
That came on Thomas Vanek's third-period goal, which tied the game 2-2. Adam Mair scored his first goal of the season in the first period to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Luongo made 30 saves, outduelling Buffalo's Ryan Miller in a battle of Olympic goaltenders. Luongo will represent Canada next month, while Miller, who made 22 saves, is expected to be the starter for the United States.