The Sabres failure in their yearly road trip was capitalized by a loss to the Vancouver Canucks Monday night at GM Place. Buffalo lost on a highlight-reel pass from Daniel Sedin to Brad Lukowich, which resulted in Lukowich beating Miller to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead.
The real highlight of this game came a period earlier and has continued a trend that is becoming quite disturbing.
With time running out in the second period and the Canucks on the powerplay, a shot from Ryan Kesler ricocheted off the goalpost and was cleared out by the Sabres Tim Connolly. The Sabres had a goal when Connolly dropped the puck back to Rivet, who took a shot that beat Roberto Luongo. While Connolly and Rivet were making their moves, Sabre Paul Gaustad was driving hard to the net, contested by the Canuck's Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff slid into the net on the play and took the net off its moorings.
Referee Kerry Fraser waited until the puck was in the net then decided to wave it off. At the time he waved the goal off, Fraser made no motion to signal a penalty call. The TSN announcers had no idea why, but speculated that he might have thought the net had come off BEFORE the puck crossed the line.
That would have been simple. A discrepancy about timing is easily resolved by a video review. Fraser instead waited until the play was shown on the replay screens, clearly showing the puck was in before Ehrhoff took the net off, then decided he would call a penalty on Gaustad for a cross-check, stating that the goal was to be disallowed because it occurred before the puck was in.
Fraser lied about the cross check. The replay shows Ehrhoff off balance before and the amount of pressure put on by Gaustad nowhere near the amount that would be necessary to call a penalty, especially as defined by the way the game had been called up until that point. Fraser's tone of voice when he announced the penalty made it even clearer that he was lying, as he stumbled at first and then seemed to gain confidence with his accusation when the crowd seemed to agree. In addition, referee Fraser never indicated in the original call that he saw a penalty.
Thomas Vanek scored on a powerplay to tie the game at two in the third and Lukowich got the game winner later in the period.
The problem remains, however, that a referee's error impacted the outcome of a game, AGAIN. This same problem occurred merely days before to the Sabres in Anaheim, when Hecht batted home a loose puck behind Jonas Hiller at 7:28 in the 3rd that was disallowed. It was disallowed because referee Dan O'Halloran thought Hiller had the puck and was about to blow the whistle when the replay showed Hiller had no idea where the puck was. Furthermore, he couldn't have covered it up because his glove hand was nowhere near the play.
These examples are just two from one team in one week. Other fans of other teams have their own complaints, even players and coaches are becoming fed up with the dishonesty and stupidity of the officiating in this league. The players and coaches have not been too loose with their words since the Alex Burrows incident, in which a player called out a referee whose ego cost his team a game and was fined for doing so.
The league needs to do something and they seem very reluctant to do so. They need to act before something happens that they cannot sweep under the rug because the NHL will be in for some very bad press if anything more blatant then the recent official blunders comes up.