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What the Auger-Burrows incident has wrought

The morning after Alex Burrows' famous rant, a Globe colleague posed some constructive questions.

Is Burrows a brilliant reverse psychologist? And would his tirade against NHL referee Stephane Auger buy the Canucks the benefit of future whistles?

The latest returns: yes and yes.

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Buffalo's Lindy Ruff was in a huff Monday, after an indigestible defeat to the Canucks at GM Place. The Sabres looked to have tied the score 2-2 late in the second period, but referee Kerry Fraser made an early, decisive call to disallow a bang-bang goal.

At full speed, the goal looked fishy. Upon review, it looked legit.

But overturning that early, decisive call would have meant ruling against the home team, before a home crowd on alert. And that would have been awfully brave given the events of this month.

Instead, Paul Gaustad was called for a soft cross-checking penalty. "If you're going to call that, you better call about 75 cross-checks in the game," Ruff said.

Few neutral observers would disagree. The referee needed grounds to justify his initial call and keep peace and order in the building. Presented with an out, he took it.

(And presented with an opportunity to even the stakes, he found a subsequent elbowing penalty on Vancouver's Ryan Kesler).

The Sabres drew even early in the third before losing 3-2. Had they lost 2-1, we can only imagine Ruff's mood. And had that no-goal call been made against the Canucks, we can only imagine the reaction from 18,810 patrons.

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This is what the Auger-Burrows incident has wrought.

Distrust of the officials courses through GM Place. Every call is scrutinized. Questions and suspicion surround every controversial ruling.

And the home team, for all its squeaking, may have gotten some grease Monday, courtesy of an official who didn't want to poke the bear. Again.

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