Blue Jackets fans say ref gave them the finger, made ‘crying gesture’

It’s tough not to sympathize with NHL referees sometimes. Sure, it’s frustrating when they make a marginal or downright incorrect call – especially when it’s against your team, which clearly makes that guy a conspirator – but it’s a thankless job that must be harder than it looks to outsiders.

Still, those men in striped uniforms are human, after all. Sometimes they hold foolish grudges against players (allegedly), getting in gambling trouble like the NBA’s Tim Donaghy or even get into spats with fans. Sometimes heckling can get under your skin, and if Blue Jackets fans are telling the truth, that’s exactly what happened last night.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch reports that Blue Jackets fans in section 109 claim NHL referee Paul Devorski made a “scratching motion” on his chin with his middle finger* and a crying gesture toward them during the third period of Monday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. The fans had been giving Devorski “grief” for what they felt was a missed high sticking call.

* – I prefer the forehead scratch, personally, but to each his own.

Portzline writes that 15 fans informed the newspaper regarding the situation via e-mail or Twitter. Devorski denied the claims, NHL director of officiating Terry Gregson said the league is investigating the matter and head disciplinarian Colin Campbell provided no comment regarding the incident.

Apparently fans were “on edge” all night, in part because the Wild received seven power play opportunities while the Blue Jackets had none.

“Two guys in front of us started giving the refs (grief) after they clearly missed a call,” said Ritter Hoy, who was seated five rows up from the glass in section 109. “Happens at every game, right?

“Well, the No. 10 official put his fingers up and rubbed his eyes and made a crying face, like ‘what are you going to do, cry?’ They started giving him more (grief) and he put his middle finger up to his chin and acted like he was scratching his face. It was very, very blatant. The whole section saw it and went crazy.”

No. 10 is Devorski, a 21-year NHL official who is one of the most respected officials in the business. Devorski has worked Stanley Cups since the 2001 season and the last two Olympics, including the bronze medal game in 2010 and the gold medal game in 2006. This would seem out of his character.

The crowd’s reaction last night was audible, even from the press box. I heard it and so did the two traveling writers who cover the Wild, but the reason for the disturbance was not immediately clear. Fans were on edge most of the night, because the Wild had seven power plays, while the Blue Jackets had none.

My guess is that nothing much beyond a funny story will likely come out of this, but if something does happen – from a fine, suspension or other discipline via the league – we’ll let you know.

If nothing else, it’s a testament to the fine art of heckling. Well done, Section 109.

Ducks cement Pacific lead as Getzlaf continues his mammoth March

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By the end of Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks removed all doubt: they’re on top of the Pacific Division.

Now, it’s not the sort of substantial lead that the sliding San Jose Sharks squandered; Anaheim merely leads the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers by two standings points after beating the New York Rangers 6-3.

With everyone at 75 games played, it’s kind of nice to enjoy the clarity that comes with a clear lead (though the Sharks and Oilers will disagree):

Pacific top four (all teams with 75 games played)

1. Ducks – 93 points (38 ROW, 41 W)
2. Sharks – 91 poitns (40 ROW, 42 W)
3. Oilers – 91 points (37 ROW, 41 W)

Flames – 88 points (38 ROW, 42 W)

The Ducks are now on a four-game winning streak and managed an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10 contests.

With all due respect to Patrick Eaves‘ two goals, it’s Ryan Getzlaf who’s really playing outstanding hockey. He generated four assists in this one, giving him eight helpers in his past four games. He now has a whopping 20 points in March.

A lot going on – fight included – between Corey Perry, Brendan Smith (Video)

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If there’s one thing that’s undeniable from the clip going on, it’s that Corey Perry and Brendan Smith squeezed a lot of activity (carnage?) into a single shift.

Early on in Sunday’s New York Rangers – Anaheim Ducks game, both player delivered hits that were at least borderline dangerous. After that, they traded punches in a pretty solid fight (especially since they seemed a little tired because, again, this was a fairly elaborate sequence).

It’s way too messy a sequence to call neat, but there is something efficient about trading hits and then getting into a fight. That’s a mini-hockey feud in short order.

If you want a pretty moment to counteract all that, check out the great puck movement on this 3-on-1 goal for the Rangers:

Penguins lose to Flyers and lose another key player to injury

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PITTSBURGH — Even with a ridiculously long injured list that would be the foundation of a pretty good hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go 8-1-3 in their previous 12 games entering Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The injuries finally seemed to start catching up to them on Sunday in a 6-2 loss, extending their current losing streak to three games, matching their season long.

While the loss certainly impacts their pursuit of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division (they remain three points back of the Washington Capitals), and even their quest for home ice advantage in the first round, it is still not the worst thing to come out of Sunday’s game.

The worst thing for them would be the fact the Penguins lost yet another key player to an injury when forward Conor Sheary had to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Sheary is dealing with a lower body injury and that right now he is considered to be day-to-day. It was initially believed that Sheary was injured blocking a shot, but Sullivan insisted that was not the case and that it happened in the offensive zone at some point in the first period.

With Jake Guentzel still sidelined due a concussion he suffered in a recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, that means two-thirds of the team’s recently assembled top line (Sidney Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel) is now sidelined due to injury. Sheary’s injury is especially concerning given how good he has been on Crosby’s wing dating back to the 2016 playoffs. Entering play on Sunday Sheary was averaging nearly a point per game (50 points in 54 games) with almost all of that production coming at even-strength.

They had yet another scare in the third period on Sunday when defenseman Brian Dumoulin had to briefly leave the game and head to the locker room after he was elbowed in the side of the head by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

On Sunday, all of the injuries finally seemed to be too much with the Flyers pretty much dominating the game over the final two periods.

The Flyers received goals from six different players (Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Jakob Voracek, Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere) in the win and outshot the Penguins by a 24-15 margin over the final 40 minutes.

“That wasn’t a good effort and at this point of the season we can’t afford to have those,” said Penguins forward Matt Cullen after the game. “I don’t think that was a typical effort for us. I don’t think we had a lot of life, to be honest.”

Even more than winning games the rest of the way the biggest concern for the Penguins has to be getting their list of injured players healthy and finding a way to avoid adding to it, something that has proven to be difficult in recent weeks.

At this point, whether they win the Metropolitan Division or not, they know their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs is very likely going to have to go through both Washington and Columbus, and they are going to need their full complement of players to do it.

One of the biggest factors in winning a Stanley Cup is having all of your key players in the lineup come playoff time.

A year ago the Penguins did.

Right now they are not even close to having that.

Video: Dumoulin shakes off elbow, Sheary out day-to-day for Penguins

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Barring a major comeback, the Pittsburgh Penguins look like they’re going to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Their injury losses might be just as big.

On the bright side, it seems like Brian Dumoulin was able to shake off an elbow from Wayne Simmonds. You can watch the hit, which didn’t draw a penalty, in the video above.

Meanwhile, Conor Sheary has been missing since the first period with what might be a lower-body injury.

The Penguins’ list of injuries is already pretty ridiculous, so if one or both of these players miss significant time, tonight will sting deeper than a setback on the scoreboard.

Update after the Penguins’ loss: Seemingly good news, if very early and vague: