Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows did not hold back about what he felt were unjust penalty calls, ripping into NHL referee Stephane Auger after Vancouver's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday night.
The NHL is looking into the matter and sources tell TSN that while Colin Campbell will be handling the investigation, commissioner Gary Bettman will be heavily involved in the process.
The Canucks forward could face discipline for making such strong allegations publicly.
Burrows, who was called for diving in the second period and interference in the third, also received a 10-minute misconduct with seconds left in the game, and he was not shy his post-game interview.
"It was personal. It started in warmup, before the anthem," Burrows said of Auger's penalty calling. "(Auger) came over to me and he said I made him look bad in Nashville on the (Jerred) Smithson hit and he said he was going to get me back tonight."
Burrows was referring to an incident back in December when the Preds' Smithson hit Burrows and was given a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct. On Monday night, Burrows said Auger was getting back at him.
"When Smithson hit me from sideways and he (Auger) said, 'I saw the replay, you had 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.
"He did his job in the third, I think. He got me on a diving call I didn't think was diving. He got me on an interference call that I had no idea how he could call that. It changed the game. It sucks right now for teammates who are battling 60 minutes to win a hockey game because every two points are so huge, are so important. And because of a guy's ego, it just blows everything out of proportion and the refs - they're making bad calls and the fans are paying for it and we're paying for it."
Burrows, who also had two goals in the contest, continued to lay into Auger until the Canucks' PR staff intervened to stop him.
Burrows claimed that Auger's calls were pre-meditated.
"He comes into the game and he knows he's going to make a call against me to give Nashville an advantage and I don't think that's fair for my teammates and for the fans," said Burrows.
The 28-year-old said he exchanged more words with Auger as the game was winding down.
"After my second penalty, I skated by him and he said, 'If you say a word, I'm 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 a faceoff outside the zone, I thought I could tell him what I thought about him.
"I think he should stay out for the rest of the year making calls like that that are making us look bad. Every two points are so important in this league. We just blew two points because of his officiating tonight."
Burrows asked if he was afraid of possible repercussions for his comments.
"Maybe, but at the same time, I don't think it's fair for the fans, I don't think it's fair for my teammates, and I don't think it's fair for everyone to deal with that. Let's say we miss the playoffs by one point at the end of the year; that might be the game that will cost us the playoffs so it's important."
Auger and Burrows have indeed crossed paths before. Auger kicked the Pincourt, Quebec native out of a game last season in Montreal.
As for Monday night's game, Roberto Luongo said the calls were simply unprecedented.
"I'm not the type of guy to make excuses - I mean, that's not who I am, but I've never seen anything like it in my whole career," Luongo said. "That was the first time I've seen calls like that, especially when the game is on the line."
Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault weighed in after the game with some candid thoughts.
"There's a history there. We're definitely going to look into that," said Vigneault. "If those (allegations) are true, then they need to be brought up and we'll see.
"Does he (Burrows) have a legitimate case and how many times has this happened with this individual?"
Former NHL official Bryan Lewis, who hired Stephane Auger, said on Tuesday it is unheard of for a referee to tell a player he will pay him back for a previous incident.
Appearing on TSN's Off The Record on Tuesday, Lewis said officials put too much time and energy into making it to the NHL to risk it all by exacting revenge on a player.
"I can' think of anybody that's worked long and hard to get into the National Hockey League, or pro hockey in general, putting themsleves at peril by not doing their job properly," said Lewis.
Off The Record can be seen weekdays on TSN at 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt.