TAMPA, Fla. -- Throughout this series, Lightning coach Guy Boucher has done his best to initiate a tit-for-tat mental game with Bruins coach Claude Julien, to no avail. But following the Bruins' 5-4 loss in Game 6 on Wednesday, when Boston allowed three Tampa Bay power-play goals on four attempts, Julien finally bit, questioning whether the four power plays awarded to the Lightning were a result of Boucher's statement about referee Eric Furlatt, who heading into Game 6 had called 24 penalties on the Lightning in the playoffs.
"24-9 against, right?" Boucher answered a reporter rhetorically after the morning skate when asked whether he was worried Furlatt would be the referee in Game 6. "Yes, I'm aware of it. Very aware of it. Very, very aware of it. It has been a part of our discussions quite a few times in the last game, the last games we did have that particular ref. And it is lopsided. But the only thing we can control is what we do on the ice and hope that things will be fair like it is with everybody else.
"You want to ignore it, but you're right, after repetition, it is a concern. But we're planning on being strong mentally and forcing whoever is a ref to see that we're very disciplined," he said.
After Wednesday night's game, a disgusted Julien agreed that the Lightning power play was a major difference in the game but then questioned whether Boucher's comments influenced what he felt were unfair calls against his team.
"Obviously it was a difference-maker," Julien said of the Lightning power play. "They scored three goals on the power play and it took us a long time to get our first one, and that certainly dictated the game. And what was more disappointing is probably the fact that, you know, I don't know if I agree with those calls. And hopefully what was said today didn't have any impact on that, because if it did, I'd be really disappointed. But when you look back at those and you get an opportunity to look back at them, that's really tough to swallow.
"And at the same time, you want your team to kill those penalties," he added, "which we've done a pretty good job throughout the series. But tonight that wasn't the case. And obviously it was the difference in the game."
When appraised of Julien's reaction and the fact that he implied Boucher's comments might have influenced the power plays awarded to his team, Boucher's eyes lit up as if he had been waiting for the question and he picked up the final score sheet.
"Well, first of all, I was asked that," he said, making it clear that he wasn't the one who brought up the subject earlier in the day. "I didn't bring it up myself. I was asked, and people put numbers in front of me. Those were the facts and the numbers. If you're asking me, power plays are 5-4 for them today, and they were 3-0 for them to start the game in the first period. It was 4-1 for them before we got our other power play, so I don't know, who had the advantage today? We had less power plays than them."
Bruins players also didn't hold back their frustration with the calls Wednesday, going as far as calling them makeup calls, but did admit that the Bruins must be more disciplined regardless of their frustration with the calls.
"Well, I mean, it seemed like some of them were just makeup calls because we had a bunch of [power plays]," Milan Lucic said. "You'd hope it's not the time of year where there's makeup calls like that. You can't let the refs get to you. You don't want them to be the difference, and you want to do whatever you can to work past that. We don't want to make excuses because of referees, but, then again, we have to do whatever we can to not take penalties."
The Bruins, who went 1-for-5 on the power play Wednesday, also know that regardless of how the game is called, when they do have a call go their way in Game 7, they need to take advantage of the opportunity.
"They were able to capitalize on their power plays there and we were only able to capitalize on one, and that was basically it," Lucic said. "In the second period, we had our chances there on the PP and we've got to find ways to score, that's for sure. In every sport it seems when you get chance after chance and you don't capitalize on it, it seems they get the same sort of chance, they get one PP and, boom, they score right away. So we gotta obviously come up big with our special teams."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.