SAN JOSE, California -- If Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa hoped to get the San Jose Sharks attention with his accusations Monday of embellishment, he apparently succeeded.
Bieksa pointed the finger at two of the Sharks' top players, centers Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. They largely sidestepped the issue Tuesday, ahead of Game 4 of the teams' Western Conference Quarterfinal series (10 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN, RDS), but coach Todd McLellan and forward Adam Burish responded.
"If we go back now to look at the series, we've been called cheaters in Game 1, we've been called embellishing Canadians after Game 3," McLellan said. "If the series goes any deeper, we may be accused of biting, eventually.
"In all seriousness, I don't take any offense to it, but if I was an official I probably would. I think they've questioned the integrity of the linesmen after Game 1, and now the integrity of the referees after Game 3. But no offense taken by us."
After the Sharks' 3-1 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault accused the Sharks of cheating in the faceoff circle.
The day after San Jose went up 3-0 in the best-of-7 series with a 5-2 win Sunday, Bieksa questioned the integrity of Thornton and Couture.
"There's guys on their team, two guys in particular, that are embellishing a lot of calls, making it tough on the officials," Bieksa said Monday. "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 did not skate Tuesday morning and was not available for further comment, but Burish had plenty to say.
"I guess if I was him, while he was up on his soapbox, trying to save the integrity of the game and all that stuff, if I was him I'd swing by player No. 14 and player No. 17," Burish said of Canucks forwards Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler. "Swing by their stalls and have a little talk with them, too, about diving and the integrity kind of thing. Then he can work his way over to our room, but I'd start with those two guys in his room.
"But to sit there and -- I thought it was silly -- and kind of call out the refs and worry about what we're doing. Please, keep worrying about us, but we're going to worry about our guys and what we have to do and how we can be better and not worry about the integrity of the game and having props in interviews and acting like a lawyer with video evidence and all that stuff. We're not worried about that stuff."
Thornton was asked if Bieksa's accusation is a sign of desperation from the Canucks.
"They're down 3-0," Thornton said.
Couture said he's not concerned or insulted by Bieksa's barbs.
"It really doesn't matter what they have to say. All I'm focused on is playing Game 4," Couture said. "Everyone has their own opinion. He said what he had to say. I'll just play the game, and that's that."
Couture said he doesn't believe Bieksa's accusations will have any effect on the way Game 4 is officiated.
"It shouldn't," Couture said. "Those guys are pros. They're the best in the world at what they do. They don't listen to outside sources. They go out and do their job. They've done a great job so far this year, especially in the playoffs."
Author: Eric Gilmore | NHL.com Correspondent