SAN JOSE – In what could be viewed as a tactical move to take the focus off of his sinking team that is on the verge of being eliminated in the first round for the second straight season, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa sounded off on Monday.
Bieksa went specifically after Sharks centers Logan Couture and Joe Thornton for embellishing hits in order to draw penalties, in his view.
“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. “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. The 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.”
In a text message to CSNCalifornia.com, Couture responded: "I'll let my play do the talking."
Bieksa, whose violent stick to the groin of Marty Havlat early in Game 1 knocked the forward from the series, was called for roughing Couture late in Game 2. He hit Couture behind the net well after play had stopped.
The Canucks took 11 minor penalties in Game 3, compared to just four for San Jose. Dan Hamhuis’ slash of Thornton’s hand put San Jose on a two-man advantage that it capitalized to open the scoring in the first period, while Henrik Sedin jabbed Couture in the head after a faceoff in the third period, leading to the Sharks’ fifth goal.
All told, the Sharks scored three power play goals in their 5-2 win.
“Right now we're taking penalties, we're being undisciplined, but at the same time there's a lot of embellishing going on by their two guys,” Bieksa said. “They want to win, they want power plays. They have a really good power play, and they understand if they're on the power play they're going to do some damage, they're going to get some chances.
“Those two guys in particular are doing whatever they can to get on the power play. Couture has been snapping his head back. This isn't my opinion. Evidence is in the video. [Henrik] touches him off the faceoff. He does a full arch, [his] glove goes flying off in the corner from getting (the butt end of a stick) in the side of the face.”
“Thornton takes his glove off and shakes his hand, and draws a huge power play, a huge 5-on-3 for them. Those are two Canadian guys that are supposed to be playing the game with integrity. Maybe our team has to do more of that.”
It was suggested to Bieksa that, well, the Canucks do that already. Ryan Kesler was slow to get up in the first period after taking a high stick from Patrick Marleau, drawing a minor penalty, and then coming out for the ensuing power play faceoff in the offensive zone. Players like Kesler, Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre don’t have the greatest reputations when it comes to embellishing hits.
"Well, yeah, but it doesn't take away the fact it's happening from those two guys,” Bieksa said.
The defenseman insisted that the Canucks are not yet done in the series.
“We still believe we can beat this team four games in a row,” he said. “It's a matter of staying out of the box, and 5-on-5 we feel we're the better team. We obviously have to prove it, but we're still confident in ourselves."
The Sharks have outscored the Canucks at even strength in the series, 7-4.
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Alain Vigneault has made a decision on the Canucks' goalie for Game 4. But, he chose not to make it public on Monday.
"I have not talked to my goaltenders yet. I'll do that tonight before supper," he said.
Vancouver has lost all six games against San Jose this season, including all three in the regular season.
"I believe we can win one game. We haven't beaten the Sharks once this year. I believe we can do it tomorrow," Vigneault said.