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No suspension for Burrows

NHL doesn’t see intentional biting

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / June 3, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Yesterday, the tip of Patrice Bergeron’s right index finger was red, courtesy of Alex Burrows’s chomp in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

As he did after the Bruins’ 1-0 loss Wednesday, Bergeron said Burrows had bitten him. He said his finger was bleeding after the bite.

But Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, gave Burrows the green light to play in Game 2 tomorrow night.

“After reviewing the incident, including speaking with the on-ice officials, I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron,’’ Murphy said in a statement.

It was clear Wednesday night at Rogers Arena that something significant had taken place between Bergeron and Burrows at the end of the first period. After face-washes escalated to bite night, Bergeron and Burrows exchanged words — in French, Bergeron said — as linesmen Steve Miller and Pierre Racicot attempted to separate the two.

After the linesmen broke up the scrum, Bergeron and Burrows went to their respective dressing rooms. (There was no confirmation to the rumor that Bergeron went off for antibiotics and that Burrows ordered a post-meal espresso.)

“If there’s one player in the league that will not embellish on account of something, it would be Bergeron,’’ said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “But we’ll turn the page on it.’’

Replays show that Bergeron’s right index finger approached Burrows’s mouth, and that Burrows appeared to close his mouth on it.

“I didn’t mean to put my finger in his mouth,’’ Bergeron said. “Why would I do that?’’

Burrows was called for a roughing double minor. Bergeron was given a single roughing minor.

According to the NHL rule book, biting falls under Rule 75, which covers unsportsmanlike conduct. Similar penalties include hair-pulling and grabbing a face mask.

If a referee deems that biting took place, it is up to him to determine whether a match penalty is warranted.

“If warranted, and especially when injury results, the referee may apply Rule 21 — match penalties,’’ reads Rule 75.2 (ii).

Among players, biting is considered a cowardly act. After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien called it a “classless move.’’

There is recent history of players accusing opponents of biting. On Jan. 6, 2009, Jarkko Ruutu of the Senators bit Sabres tough guy Andrew Peters on the right hand. Peters reacted by jerking back, tossing his glove off, and shaking it in pain. Ruutu was suspended for two games.

In Game 2 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals, The Flyers’ Dan Carcillo accused Bruin Marc Savard of biting him. Savard said Carcillo was trying to pull out his teeth. Savard cracked that Carcillo, who is missing several teeth, was trying to create a mirror image.

In this latest incident, cameras isolated the bite. Bergeron’s finger bore the results of the chomp.

“If it was a court of law, he’d probably be convicted due to circumstantial evidence,’’ Chiarelli said. “But I accept it. I accept it.’’

Had Burrows been suspended, the Canucks would have been without their No. 1 right wing. While Daniel and Henrik Sedin are the offensive guns on the first line, Burrows complements the twins with his speed, energy, sandpaper, and agitating ways.

In 19 playoff games, Burrows has 7goals and 7 assists while averaging 21:21 of ice time. He skates on the No. 2 power-play unit, and is averaging 3:06 of shorthanded ice time per game, tied with Ryan Kesler for most among Vancouver forwards.

In Game 1, Burrows had two shots in 19:53 of ice time. He was slapped with eight penalty minutes — four from the biting incident, and four more from separate minors (holding, tripping). The trip was called when he ran into Tim Thomas during a second-period power play.

“I thought he played a good game,’’ Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “He was in on a lot of scoring chances. Our penalty killing did a good job of keeping the Bruins off the board.

“He competed real hard. He took one penalty in the offensive zone, where he grabbed the guy, that we could do without. I didn’t agree with the one on Thomas. Then there was a scrum where 10 guys started pushing and he got four minutes.’’

Considering the importance of the series, the Bruins would be foolish to seek retribution. Any slight to their alternate captain will have to be addressed during a regular-season rematch.

Instead, Bergeron and the Bruins will be looking for a bounce-back effort. They need to get on the scoreboard. They must improve their power play. They have to give Thomas more help against Vancouver’s flammable offense.

“We’re not the type of team that whines and cries about that,’’ Julien said of Burrows not being suspended. “We just move on. That’s what we’re going to do.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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