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Canucks' Bieksa accuses Sharks of embellishment

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The Vancouver Canucks have often been accused of embellishing calls in an effort to draw penalties.

On Monday, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa pointed the finger at Sharks forwards Logan Couture and Joe Thornton, accusing them of having Oscar-worthy performances during this Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Sharks scored three power-play goals on eight attempts Sunday night in a 5-2 victory that gave them a 3-0 lead in the series. Game 4 is set for Tuesday at HP Pavilion.

"Five-on-five, we're the better team," Bieksa said. "Their power play's been hot. We've been giving them too many chances. There's guys on their team, two guys in particular, that are embellishing a lot of calls, making it tough on the officials. Couture, you can't go near the guy. He snaps his head back. He flails. You touch him after the whistle, and he's going to jump off the ice and throw himself into the glass. And those are hard calls for the officials to make, and now they're going against us.

"Thornton, another so-called Canadian, supposed to play the game with integrity, gets slashed and takes his glove off and shakes his hand. Referee takes a couple seconds to look at that and make a call, and that's an important part of the game. That's a critical time of the game where we go down two men, and these are two guys that are supposed to be playing the game with integrity."

Bieksa made his comments Monday afternoon at HP Pavilion, long after San Jose's media access ended at their practice facility. After being reached by the San Jose Mercury News later in the afternoon, Couture and Thornton responded to Bieksa's accusations.

"It's just talk," Thornton told the Mercury News. "You can see in both video clips, they were probably both penalties. They're just going to talk like that now. At this point, you really don't even pay attention to things that are said like that. It's all part of the gamesmanship. You just try not to get sucked into a verbal altercation with them."

"There's really not much to say," Couture said. "I'm not going to go to the media and do any talking. I'll do my talking on the ice."

The Canucks' parade to the penalty box Sunday started early in the first period and continued until late in the third. In all, the Canucks took 11 minor penalties -- many of them undisciplined and unnecessary -- to just four for the Sharks. San Jose scored three power plays on eight attempts while the Canucks went 0-for-2.

"We absolutely have to be more disciplined," Bieksa said. "After the whistle, we can't have anything of that anymore. We have to have learned our lesson from there. This is a good power play, especially their first unit. They're going out there, they're getting a lot of chances, they're making plays. We can't give them more opportunities. We have to make them earn those chances. Obviously the onus is on us to be more disciplined."

Bieksa acknowledged the irony of accusing two Sharks of embellishment when two of his teammates -- Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows -- have heard similar accusations for years. Even so, he didn't back down.

"Whether or not you think we're embellishers or not doesn't take away the fact that those two guys are doing it as well," Bieksa said. "If you want to look at this series - forget about the past - I don't feel like we've embellished calls, and we feel like it's going the other way. The (Sedin) twins get hacked and slashed and whacked more than anyone, and if they ever try to draw a penalty or embellish it, they're called on it by everybody.

"Five-on-five, we're the better team. Their power play's been hot. We've been giving them too many chances. There's guys on their team, two guys in particular, that are embellishing a lot of calls, making it tough on the officials."
-- Canucks D-man Kevin Bieksa on Sharks forwards Logan Couture and Joe Thornton

"There's two guys on the other team doing the exact same thing. Right now they're getting the calls and they're making it tough on the officials. These are tough calls for officials to make because they're not sure of the extent of the damage, they're not sure if they really get them on the wrist with the slash. It's not the officials' problem. This is about playing the game with integrity and not trying to do whatever you can to draw a power play."

Center Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks an early 1-0 lead with a 5-on-3 power-play goal. Canucks wing Dale Weise was in the box for roughing and Dan Hamhuis for slashing Thornton.

Couture scored a pair of power-play goals in the third period. The first came during the continuation of a cross-checking penalty on Jannik Hansen from late in the second period. Hansen actually disrupted Thornton on a breakaway, saving a possible goal.

Couture scored his second power-play goal in the third after Canucks captain Henrik Sedin high-sticked him in the face-off circle then punched him in the face. Couture didn't retaliate with his fists, but 21 seconds later he got even by scoring a goal, putting San Jose ahead 5-1.

"I think early on in the game, you want to be aggressive," Henrik Sedin said. "We crossed the line a few times. In the third when the game is over, that's frustration for sure. That's what happens in the playoffs when you're down. But it's early in games. It's every game. The first game, we were up 1-0 late in the second. We take a penalty, they get the momentum. It's every game. We got to play 5-on-5 tomorrow. That has to be our main focus. I think we've played better than them 5 on 5."

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