The Vancouver Canucks don't understand the big fuss about a little bite. Neither did the NHL.

Vancouver forward Alex Burrows avoided a suspension in the Stanley Cup finals yesterday when the NHL decided it couldn't prove he bit the finger of Boston's Patrice Bergeron during the Canucks' series-opening, 1-0 victory.

"That's how French guys say hello to one another," joked Alexandre Bolduc, who centered the Canucks' fourth line in Game 1. "You want to show respect, you put your fingers in someone's mouth."

Daniel and Henrik Sedin also laughed about such a silly incident involving their linemate early in what's shaping up as a gritty, goalie-dominated series heading into Game 2 tomorrow night. Roberto Luongo shut out the Bruins with 36 saves, and Boston's Tim Thomas matched him until Raffi Torres scored with 18.5 seconds to play.

Both teams realize they've got bigger issues than the after-the-whistle shenanigans that happen constantly in the NHL, but particularly under playoff intensity.

"I'm over it," Bergeron said yesterday after the Bruins' light practice. "I'm looking forward to the next game. We've got to get back in the series. Like I said [Wednesday] night, it's the league's decision, and I've got to let them make it . . . I don't want to whine about that stuff. I don't care."

After the game, Bergeron declared Burrows had bitten him while they scuffled after the first-period buzzer, even showing his bandaged right index finger and saying he planned to take antibiotics.

In the television replay that seemingly played on an infinite loop in Vancouver's bars and restaurants Wednesday night, Bergeron's gloved right index finger sure appeared to go into Burrows' mouth. Bergeron claimed Burrows then bit down on him, but Burrows denied it.

Bergeron scoffed at the notion he had deliberately put his finger in Burrows' mouth. Both players had their gloves in the other's face at different points of the scuffle.

"We were both facewashing each other, and I didn't need to put my finger in his mouth," Bergeron said. "Why would I do that?"


* Penguins center Sidney Crosby has been cleared by team doctors to start offseason, off-ice workouts. Crosby played his last game on Jan. 5, and did not return to the Penguins as he recovered from a concussion. Pittsburgh advanced to the playoffs without him, but lost in Round 1 to Tampa Bay in seven games.

Though he played in just 41 games, Crosby, 23, still led the team with 32 goals and 66 points.

* St. Louis Blues defenseman Roman Polak has signed a 5-year contract extension. Polak, 25, had three goals, nine assists and 33 penalty minutes in 55 games last season.

_ The Washington Capitals acquired left wing Taylor Stefishen from the Nashville Predators for a conditional pick in the 2013 draft.

* The Buffalo Sabres are not renewing the contract of associate coach Brian McCutcheon, though they haven't ruled out the possibility of him returning in another role. One possibility is McCutcheon returning to the AHL. The Sabres are in need of a minor league coach after Kevin Dineen was hired by the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.

* The New Jersey Devils have signed Michigan defenseman Brandon Burlon to an entry-level contract. Burlon had five goals and 13 assists this past season in helping Michigan reach the NCAA Frozen Four.

* The opener to the Stanley Cup finals drew the best preliminary rating for a Game 1 in 12 years.

The Canucks' last-minute, 1-0 win over Boston earned a 3.2 overnight rating and 6 share on NBC on Wednesday. That's up 14 percent from last year's Flyers-Blackhawks Game 1 and the highest since a 3.7 for Buffalo-Dallas in 1999. The rating was boosted by heavy interest in Boston's large market, which posted a 25.5/39, topping the 19.1/34 for Game 1 of last year's Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals.