Sharks look to even series in Vancouver

Sharks look to even series in Vancouver

May 18, 2011

SHARKS (0-1) vs.
VANCOUVER (1-0)

Coverage begins at 5:30 P.M. on Versus

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) San Jose captain Joe Thornton tried to get the Western Conference finals off to a raucous start when he asked gritty Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler to drop the gloves right off the opening faceoff.

"Why not?" Thornton said Tuesday, confirming he made the invitation to Kesler. "Let's fight. Let's start the series off with a bang."

It didn't happen. Instead, the Canucks rallied in the third period for a 3-2 win on Sunday night.

Maybe Thornton and the Sharks should be more concerned about how they finish games than how they start them. San Jose is trailing in a series for the first time this postseason and will have a chance to get even on Wednesday night in Game 2 in Vancouver.

The Sharks' inability to hold onto third-period leads nearly cost them in the second round against Detroit, when the Red Wings erased a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7.

Even though the Sharks are behind in a series for the first time, they are all too familiar with coughed-up leads. San Jose surrendered third-period advantages in Game 5 and 6 against the Red Wings before holding off Detroit in Game 7.

The Sharks were ahead 2-1 going into the third period of Game 1 against Vancouver, but gave up two goals 79 seconds apart and were outshot 13-7 in the final frame.

REWIND: Sharks listless in 3-2 loss to Canucks in Game 1

That makes three blown third-period leads in four games for the Sharks, who were 33-2-2 during the regular season when leading after 40 minutes.

"I certainly don't feel uncomfortable with a lead," Sharks top defenseman Dan Boyle said. "That's where I want to be, and we have to find a way to finish people off, maybe by getting that next goal and building on that one-goal lead."

It's a lesson the Canucks already learned - the hard way - in these playoffs.

Vancouver was 38-0-3 with the lead after two periods during the regular season in which the Canucks had the NHL's best record and topped the league in several key categories. But after surrendering a 3-0 series lead to nemesis Chicago to start the playoffs, the Canucks gave up a short-handed goal late in Game 7 before recovering to win in overtime.

They continued to sit on leads against Nashville early in the conference semi finals, surviving a 1-0 win in Game 1 before surrendering one with 67 seconds left in Game 2 and losing in overtime. It wasn't until Game 6, the series' clincher against the Predators, that the Canucks got back to their regular season habit of trying to build on, rather than protect, late leads.

"I hope we've learned from our mistakes and mishaps, and we have to continue to have that killer instinct," Canucks forward Mason Raymond said. "We were good all year but regular season is regular season, playoffs are another level. We talked about having more of a killer instinct when we do get the lead, not sitting back so much."

Fatigue might have played a role in the Sharks' latest late-game letdown. Coming off an emotional Game 7 win against Detroit and with only two days off before starting their second straight conference finals, San Jose looked tired against the Canucks' third-period push.

After taking Monday off before practicing Tuesday, both teams expect better from the Sharks in Game 2.

"(Monday) helped us a little," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We dealt with the mental part of the game, some video. Today it was important to get back on the ice and get our legs going. We had some tempo. Doesn't guarantee we'll skate any better, but it's a step in the right direction."

PANACCIO: McLellan turns to psychology to lift Sharks

Boyle's next step is to keep going forward. He said the Sharks were guilty of turning over the puck on their way into the offensive zone, and that they spent too much time in their own end as a result of the Canucks' counterattack.

That is exactly where Kesler wants his team, pointing to the continued push after the Canucks took the lead with 11 minutes left in Game 1.

"We've learned from past experience that we're not a very good team when we sit on leads," Kesler said. "We have to keep pushing and play a fast game."

As for fighting to start games, Kesler said he laughed at Thornton's invitation after a lot of jostling got both players tossed out of the series' first faceoff.

"I'm not intimidated by anyone," Kesler said, pointing to Nashville defenseman Shea Weber as proof. "I played against Weber and that beard last round."

NOTES
Boyle accused the Canucks of embellishing fouls in Game 1 to get penalty calls: "Their heads are going back like they are getting shot with a gun." Vancouver had four power plays to one for San Jose. ... Sharks D Jason Demers is expected to play Game 2 after being a surprise scratch on Sunday because of an unidentified injury. Kent Huskins played his first game of these playoffs in his place. ... Vancouver C Manny Malhotra skated in full equipment Tuesday after returning last week to the ice for the first time since a career-threatening eye injury in March, but still hasn't been cleared for contact. ... Vancouver LW Jeff Tambellini is expected to replace Tanner Glass on the fourth line after practicing there Tuesday, adding speed in place of grit.

Key factors that will determine where Kaepernick plays in 2017

Key factors that will determine where Kaepernick plays in 2017

CHICAGO – Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers got what they wanted from a restructured contract the sides negotiated in October.

Kaepernick is allowed to opt out of his contract after this season. And the 49ers are not financially obligated to pay his 2017 salary if he sustains an injury that lingers past April 1.

Kaepernick, who requested permission to seek a trade, was always expected to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Even if he did not opt out, the 49ers would be expected to release him, anyway.

“Organizations at the end of the season go through and evaluate personnel and opportunities,” Kaepernick explained in June why he asked for permission to seek a trade. “That was something, I sat down with my team and did the same thing. That’s how we handled the business.”

The NFL Network on Sunday reported what had been known all along: Kaepernick plans to opt out the contract at the end of the season.

But this move – or if the 49ers release Kaepernick – does not rule out his return to the 49ers in 2017.

There are several unknown factors that will determine where Kaepernick plays next season:

--What will the market be for Kaepernick?

The 49ers and Denver Broncos had a deal worked out for Kaepernick last offseason. But the Broncos would only follow-through if Kaepernick agreed to take his guaranteed salary of $11.9 million down to $7 million annually over the next two years.

It’s likely the Broncos will no longer be interested. If they go after a veteran quarterback, Tony Romo would be expected to top the list. There are teams that likely will need a quarterback, such as Cleveland, Chicago and the New York Jets.

But it’s not known if ownership in those cities will step in over concerns about upsetting the team’s fan base with the acquisition of Kaepernick, who has been the NFL's most-polarizing figure this season due to his decision to protest racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem.

--Over the past four games, Kaepernick is playing at a level that would suggests he should be a starter in the NFL next season. If it’s just a football decision, he would either be competing for a starting job or – at the very least – be a top backup.

There is a lot of instability with the 49ers. If general manager Trent Baalke is back with the 49ers, it seems unlikely Kaepernick would want to come back.

Kaepernick's dissatisfaction with the 49ers last year led to him seeking a way out. He thought his team-friendly contract, which was low on guaranteed money, would allow the 49ers to keep the nucleus on their roster intact. Instead, the roster was overhauled.

Also, there were reports last year, which Kaepernick’s camp believe the 49ers leaked, that he wore his headphones around the team facility and closed himself off to teammates and did not spend as much time watching film as Blaine Gabbert.

--But if Baalke is fired at the end of the season and coach Chip Kelly is retained, it very well could be that the best place for Kaepernick will be back with the 49ers to establish some continuity.

Kelly said this week that he has not gotten involved in any of the contract discussions with Kaepernick, who recently placed his San Jose house on the market.

“I don’t deal with contracts,” Kelly said. “So, that wasn’t an issue. As I’ve said with everything, even the stuff when we first got there is when he’s with us it’s all football. If there’s a business thing. That’s between him and his agent and the front office. But that’s not something that we’ve ever had a discussion about.”

It appears Kelly and Kaepernick have a solid relationship. Kaepernick appears more comfortable running a system that accentuates his skillset.

“The relationship we have is great,” Kelly said. “We talk football and I really enjoy coaching him. He works extremely hard. He really wants to be great and works at it from that standpoint. So all that other stuff, I think he does a really good job of leaving that outside the door and we never really discuss it because that’s really not what our relationship is about.”

Instant Replay: Warriors' offense hits on all cylinders in win over Suns

Instant Replay: Warriors' offense hits on all cylinders in win over Suns

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – Scorching the nets with a season-best 62.8-percent shooting, the Warriors rolled to a 138-109 rout of the Phoenix Suns before a sellout crowd Saturday night at Oracle Arena.

Five Warriors scored in double figures, led by Stephen Curry with 31 points. Klay Thompson poured in 26 points, Kevin Durant had 20, while David West and JaVale McGee came off the bench for 11 each, season highs for both.

Forwards Draymond Green and Durant had quietly monstrous games. Green put up nine points, a game-high 13 assists, five rebounds and three steals. In addition to his scoring, Durant also submitted eight assists, four rebounds and three blocks.

The Warriors (17-3) recorded 37 assists, the 14th time they have reached at least 30. No other team has done it more than four times.

Guards Eric Bledsoe (27 points) and Devin Booker (21) combined for 48 points to lead Phoenix (6-14) scorers.

STANDOUT PERFORMERS

This night belonged to many Warriors, but mostly to Curry and Thompson.

Curry’s line: 31 points (10-of-15 from the field, including 5-of-7 from deep, 6-of-6 from the line), two rebounds, two assists and a steal. He played 30 minutes and finished plus-15.

Thompson’s line: 26 points (10-of-17, 6-of-7), five rebounds, three assists and two steals. He played 34 minutes and was plus-24.

TURNING POINT

When the Suns took a 26-25 lead on an Alex Len dunk with 2:57 left in the first quarter, the Warriors responded with a 25-4 run that yielded a 48-30 lead with 9:25 remaining the second quarter.

When Phoenix battled back, getting as close as eight (68-60) early in the second half, the Warriors recovered with a 15-4 run to go up 19 (83-64) with 7:07 left in the third quarter.

The Suns drew no closer than 20 in the fourth quarter.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: No injuries listed. C Anderson Varejao was a healthy inactive. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the D-League.

Suns: F T.J. Warren (head injury) was listed as out. F Derrick Jones Jr. is on assignment with Northern Arizona of the D-League.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors return to action Monday night, when they face the Indiana Pacers at Oracle Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:40.