Vancouver forward Alex Burrows received three penalties last night—including one that led to the game-winning power play—courtesy of referee Stephane Auger. Which shouldn't be surprising since (according to Burrows) Auger warned him that payback was coming his way.
The (alleged) vengance stems from an incident in December when Burrows was hit by Nashville's Jerred Smithson. Auger gave Smithson a five-minute major and a game misconduct, which was later rescinded because it appeared that Burrows embellished the hit. (He didn't miss a shift that game.) Since his on-ice call was basically overturned, Auger might have naturally felt that he was made to look the fool. Burrows says that's exactly how he felt and Auger wasn't afraid to say so.
It started in warm-up," Burrows said. "Before the anthem, the ref came over and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit and he was going to get me back tonight. When Smithson hit me sideways he said 'I saw the replay you had your head up and weren't really hurt and you made me look bad and I'm going to get you tonight.' "
In the rematch against Nashville on Monday, Auger nailed Burrows for a diving penalty early in the third period, an act of retribution that some would argue was fitting and proper. You show me up, I show you up, and that should have been the end of it. But with 4:49 left in the game and the scored tied 2-2, Vancouver went on the power play. Just four seconds later, Auger called Burrows for interference, ending the advantage. A subsequent penalty on his teammate gave Nashville a 4-on-3 and the Predators scored to take the lead. The Canucks lost 3-2. (With four seconds left in the game, Burrows complained to Auger and got a 10-minute misconduct.)
Payback between a ref and a player is one thing—and apparently way more prevalent then any of us may realize—but should payback cost a team two points in the standings? Now Burrows may get in trouble for criticizing refs, Auger may be in trouble for letting personal feelings affect his calls, and no matter what happens, the league ends up with egg on its face. Again.
The solution? Hire retired goons to be ref enforcers. Take a fishy dive and embarrass a zebra? You don't get two minutes in the box ... you get boarded by new linesman Bob Probert.
Alex Burrows accuses NHL ref of having a personal vendetta (with video) [White Towel]
Canucks F Burrows blasts referee [AP]
McKenzie: The Burrows-Auger saga is going to get messy [TSN]
NHL investigating Burrows' claim that ref targeted him [Puck Daddy]