VANCOUVER – A chippy opener to the Stanley Cup final turned bizarre Wednesday when Vancouver’s Alex Burrows appeared to bite the finger of a Boston Bruins player during a scrum at the end of the first period.
A replay showed the Canucks winger with Boston centre Patrice Bergeron’s finger in his mouth during a scrum behind the Bruins net at the 20-minute mark of the first period.
After the game, won 1-0 by the Canucks, Bergeron was sporting a bandage on his right index finger.
“He said that I put my finger in his mouth,” Bergeron said. “He said, ‘What else do you want me to do?’ (A referee) said he didn’t see it.”
The incident capped a nasty first game between clubs that rarely see each other during the regular season.
Burrows denied that he bit Bergeron after the game.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “He had his fingers in my mouth but I didn’t think I bit him. You saw. He put his hand up and put it in my face and his fingers in my mouth, and that’s what happened.”
When asked about a possible suspension, Burrows replied: “Next question.” He was then hauled away from reporters by a member of the team’s media relations staff.
Bergeron downplayed the incident.
“I don’t want to start a war of words here,” Bergeron said. “I’ve got to concentrate on my game.”
But Boston coach Claude Julien was less than impressed. He said such an incident should not be seen at the NHL level.
“Obviously, there was something that happened,” Julien said. “I guess I’ll save my comments for after I see it, But if that’s the case, it’s a classless move.”
Added Bruins forward Milan Lucic: “All I can say is the league is going to look at it–for sure–and they’re going to make the right call.”
Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin, who was involved in the scrum, said he did not see the incident.
The scuffle began after Bergeron hit Sedin into the end boards as the first-period buzzer sounded. Burrows received a double-minor for roughing while Bergeron received just two minutes for the same penalty. The incident highlighted a night of scuffles that featured five power plays for each team.
It wasn’t the first biting incident in a Stanley Cup final. In 1986, Montreal Canadiens pest Claude Lemieux bit Calgary Flames winger Jim Peplinski’s finger as they tussled in a brawl following the fourth game.
There is a precedent for suspending players for biting in the NHL. Ottawa’s Jarkko Ruutu was suspended for two games for clamping down on Buffalo’s Andrew Peters in January 2009.
Bruins forward Marc Savard, who isn’t playing in this series because of a concussion, got one game after biting Toronto forward Darcy Tucker in 2003.
Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell allegedly bit Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang earlier this season, but wasn’t suspended due to lack of evidence
In another notable incident Wednesday, Vancouver defenceman Dan Hamhuis was forced to leave the game after another notable incident four minutes into the second period after he sent Lucic head-over-heels with a hip check. Boston’s David Krejci took exception to the hit and cross-checked the Canuck while he was on the ice.
The 28-year-old Smithers, B.C., native immediately went to the dressing room while hunched over and wincing in pain. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, who rarely discloses injuries, simply said Hamhuis is listed as day-to-day.
Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who lost his blue-line partner, said the hosts showed their defensive depth after Hamhuis went down as they managed to kill all of Boston’s power plays and pull out the win on Raffi Torres’ last-minute goal.
“I think you can put anybody with anybody,” Bieksa said. “It’s not a big adjustment. You can flip-flop guys and put them on the left or the right. That’s the strength of our team.…They’re not replaceable, but you can fill in until they get back.”
Sedin and Bieksa chalked up the rough stuff to typical playoff hockey.
“I don’t think it was any more than a regular-season game,” said Sedin. “That’s no problem.”
Sedin made the comment even though he was felled by a post-whistle punch from Andrew Ference midway through the second period.
“I think you’re going to expect it from the Bruins,” Bieksa said. “They’ve got that persona that they’re going to play hard-nosed and tough–and they did. Maybe we don’t have the guys that are going to drop their gloves as much, but we’re going to battle through all those one-on-one battles–and we’re going to win most of them.”
Considering what’s at stake, both clubs showed that they wanted the first win “real bad.” Lucic said the Bruins also expected skirmishes with the Canucks after the whistle.
“We talked about (the possibility),” he said. “We know it’s what they like to do, but we’re going to do what we have all season–and that’s stand strong.”
Julien said the chippy affair resulted because both clubs got caught up in the emotion building up to Game 1 as both teams also wanted to make a statement.
“Although we talked about discipline, we were obviously going to stand up for each other,” Julien said.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had Jannick Hansen scoring the winner instead of Raffi Torres.