TORONTO (AP) — The NHL is looking into a claim by Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows that a referee made payback calls against him, and the Canucks are in support of their feisty forward.
The league said Tuesday that Colin Campbell, the NHL’s top disciplinarian, was reviewing the matter. Burrows accused referee Stephane Auger of targeting him in the Canucks’ 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators in Vancouver on Monday.
Burrows, Campbell and Canucks general manager Mike Gillis were scheduled to hold a conference call to discuss the matter Tuesday night after the team practiced in Minnesota.
After coming off the ice, Burrows declined to elaborate on his comments from the night before, trying to keep the subject on Wednesday’s game against the Wild.
“We had a great card game on the plane. We got in, had a great practice and now we’re focused on Minnesota,” Burrows said.
Coach Alain Vigneault said he wasn’t concerned about a distraction.
“As coaches and players our focus has to be on the next game,” Vigneault said. “Let management and the NHL deal with what transpired on the ice yesterday.”
Goalie Roberto Luongo acknowledged players were still thinking about the game in the morning, but insisted the flight from Canada helped clear their minds.
“We can’t be worrying about what’s going to happen with the officiating. We’ve just got to stay with the process,” Luongo said.
Burrows said Monday that Auger told him during the pregame warmup he was going to “get me back” for a Dec. 8 incident that left Burrows lying on the ice but able to return for his next shift.
Nashville’s Jerred Smithson received a major and game misconduct penalty for charging Burrows in that game, but the call was later overturned by the league because it said Burrows took a dive.
On Monday, Auger called Burrows for diving and interference in the third period, leaving him to watch from the penalty box when Shea Weber score the winner for the Predators.
The disputed interference penalty ended a Vancouver power play after just 4 seconds, and a penalty on Henrik Sedin left the Canucks short a man before Weber’s 4-on-3 goal.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen calls like that, especially when the game is on the line,” Luongo said after the game. “It cost us the game.”
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and 10-minute misconduct followed for Burrows with 4 seconds left.
“It was personal,” Burrows said after the game. “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.”
The officiating crew politely declined to comment when approached by the Associated Press while leaving the arena late Monday.
Gillis was unavailable for comment Tuesday. He told the Vancouver Province he was helping Burrows build his case to the league.
“We’ll see what they say about the circumstances and go from there,” Gillis told the newspaper. “I think it’s uncharted territory and I’m not quite sure what to expect.”
Gillis added: “I know our team was a frustrated group. We lost two points which were vital. I think there was obvious frustration on Alex’s part.”
Burrows has scored nine of his 19 goals in the last five games, and earlier Monday he was named the NHL’s first star for last week after scoring three goals in back-to-back games for the Canucks’ surging top line. Sedin leads the league with 63 points.
“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,” Burrows said after the game. “But with 3 seconds left and the faceoff outside the zone I thought I could tell him what I thought about him.”
On Tuesday after practice, defenseman Shane O’Brien defended Burrows’s behavior.
“He is a character guy. Every guy in that room would go through the wall for him,” O’Brien said. “Obviously he was upset, and that happens sometimes, but we’re moving forward.”
He added: “We need him focused and playing his game. Because without him, we’re definitely not as good a hockey team.”
O’Brien also lent some empathy to the officials.
“Nobody said being a ref is the easiest job in the world,” he said. “They’re human and they make mistakes. Sometimes the calls are for you, and sometimes they go against you.”
AP freelance writer Mike Cook contributed to this report from St. Paul, Minn.