The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning are doing their best to turn up the heat in their battle for the Southeast Division title.
Prior to their game on Monday night, Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to set the tone for the referees.
"If I'm a ref, I would never make a call on (Lightning agitator Steve) Downie. He dives every two seconds," said Boudreau on Monday morning. "(Leading scorer Steven) Stamkos, he dives every two seconds."
When told of the comments, Lightning head coach Guy Boucher came to the defence of his team and dismissed Boudreau's tactics.
"We all know he's trying to influence the refs for (Monday's) game," said Boucher. "I have too much respect for the players' dedication, mine and his, to even think that is possible. Referees are smart and more competent than people realize. Besides, Downie and Stamkos have the most minor penalties on our team, it's not like they're getting a lot of calls going their way. I think (Boudreau saying Stamkos and Downie are diving) is ridiculous."
For the record, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has drawn more penalties (30) than Stamkos (26) or Downie (17 in 48 games) before their Monday meeting.
During Washington's 2-1 shootout win on Monday, Stamkos drew one penalty (holding on John Carlson), while taking no minors. Downie was not involved in any penalties.
Even Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman got in on the debate.
"Steven Stamkos does not dive. He doesn't do that. He plays the game with integrity," said Yzerman on Monday. "He fights through a lot of checks. He plays the game the right way. I would hate to think someone would make a statement that isn't true and people out there would think a player like Stamkos is going to get a reputation for something that he doesn't do.
"Steve Downie is not a diver. Steve has worked hard since he has came into the league to improve the way he plays the game and he's continuing to work at it and we really like the strides he's made. But diving is not something I would say is now part of his game."
"We would like to think NHL referees are smart enough to see what's going on here and that this is nothing more than gamesmanship."