Cursing Coaches: Maple Leafs’ Keefe, Sabres’ Granato give refs an earful

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe receives a game misconduct and is ejected from the game late against the Vegas Golden Knights after voicing his displeasure on a penalty to Mitch Marner to the referees.

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe and Buffalo Sabres counterpart Don Granato won’t be putting the referees working their respective games Tuesday on their Christmas card lists.

Keefe was thrown out for expressing his displeasure late in the Leafs’ 6-2 loss to the Golden Knights, while Granato got an unsportsmanlike penalty after another Sabres minor in the third period, leading to the winning goal for the host Florida Panthers.

Keefe was tossed with just over two minutes left. He appeared to disagree with a tripping call several minutes earlier on Mitch Marner, whose stick made contact with Chandler Stephenson, and then exchanged words with referee Garrett Rank.

The Leafs coach, who stormed off the bench after being thrown out, twice declined to answer questions about the ejection in his post-game press conference.

“Not going there,” he said after the Leafs’ seven-game win streak came to an end.

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Granato took the opposite approach after Buffalo’s 3-2 loss when asked about calls made by referees Michael Markovic and TJ Luxmore. His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty came during the stoppage when Zach Benson was called for tripping midway through the third period.

Brandon Montour scored on the ensuing power play to put the Panthers up 3-1.

“You lose and you lose the way it happened, (it) is extremely aggravating and extremely disappointing and I’m not talking about our players. What transpired there is disappointing,” Granato said after his team’s season-high three-game win streak became a thing of the past.

Granato went on to say he disagreed with a double-minor call on Jordan Greenway in the second period and a non-call when he said Peyton Krebs was punched in the head.

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There also was a questionable call earlier when Benson and Dmitry Kulikov both received minors when the Sabres forward appeared to be thrown down by the Panthers defenceman while racing for the puck.

Asked if he regretted the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Granato said: “At some point you’ve got to stand up for your team. you’re put in that position as a coach, it’s a tough position to be in, but you can’t sit and watch.”

It was the second game in a row in which the Sabres made clear they didn’t agree with calls made by the refs.

The Sabres were livid with consecutive minors called on star defenceman Rasmus Dahlin before they rallied for a 3-2 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday in Buffalo.

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