Vancouver forward Alex Burrows accused referee Stephane Auger of making calls against him in the Canucks' 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday to settle a personal score over an incident between the two earlier this season.
"He cost us two points," Burrows said. "I think he should sit out for the rest of the year with calls like that."
Burrows was assessed three minor penalties, including one for diving, and a 10-minute misconduct for squawking at Auger with less than four seconds remaining. More damning, the Canucks winger said Auger told him before the game that he would exact personal revenge for Burrows showing him up in a game against Nashville earlier this season.
Burrows was referring to a five-minute charging penalty Auger assessed Nashville's Jerred Smithson on Dec. 8. The call was accompanied by a game misconduct, and though initially down from a head blow, Burrows bounced right back and finished the game.
"It's stupid [that]he takes it personal," said Burrows, who said Auger told him he was looking for a reason to toss him from the game. "It's unfair to the players and the fans."
Auger refused to comment when approached by a reporter from The Associated Press.
The Predators may have been on the right side of the referee's whistle, but they were also the better club on special teams.
Joel Ward scored shorthanded just two minutes into the first period, and Randy Jones and Shea Weber added power-play tallies. Weber scored the winner on a four-on-three advantage with four minutes remaining, after Burrows was called for interference.
Vancouver's Daniel Sedin had two assists, including the 500th point of his career, while brother Henrik Sedin notched one helper as both twins extended their streaks of consecutive games with a point. Henrik is up to 10, while Daniel and Burrows are now at six.
Henrik Sedin, the NHL's leading scorer with 63 points, was called for three minor penalties and had no squabbles with those calls. But Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said the team would look into the Auger-Burrows matter, and pursue an explanation from the league.
"We're definitely going to look into that," Vigneault said. "If those [allegations]are true, we'll definitely bring it up."
Roberto Luongo made 25 saves but looked slow all night, and was beaten cleanly by Ward's shot. Dan Ellis stopped 30 shots for the victory.
Vancouver's streak of points in nine straight games came to an end, and the team dropped to seventh place in the Western Conference, one point behind the fifth-place Predators.
A Canucks public relations official stopped Burrows's rant after a few minutes, but the damage was already done. Here are some excerpts:
On the pre-game exchange: "It was personal. It started in warm-up before the anthem. The ref came over to me and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit. He said he was going to get me back tonight and he did his job in the third. He called me on a diving call I didn't think was diving, he got me on an interference call that I have no idea how he could call that and it changed the game. It sucks right now for teammates that are battling hard for 60 minutes to win a hockey game because every two points are so huge, so important, and because of a guy's ego it just blows everything out of proportion and they're making bad calls and the fans are paying for it and we're paying for it."
On the in-game exchanges: "After my second penalty I skated by him and he said 'If you say a word I am going to kick you out.' So I didn't say a word because I still thought we could come back and win the game. But with three seconds left and the faceoff outside the zone I thought I could tell him what I thought about him. I told him it's stupid he takes it personal against guys and he shouldn't be doing that."
On the hit by Smithson last month: "He said 'I saw the replay you got your head up, you weren't really hurt, and you made me look bad so I'm going to get you back tonight' and he did and he cost us two points."
On the implications of the loss: "Let's say we miss the playoffs by one point. That might be the game that costs us. It's important, there are a lot of jobs on the line, a lot of money, a lot of people that aren't happy about the game."