Montreal Coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller were fired Wednesday with the Canadiens in the midst of a three-game skid. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP

MONTREAL — The struggling Montreal Canadiens fired Coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller on Wednesday following a three-game skid.

Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme was appointed interim coach, and Alex Burrows was added to the Canadiens’ coaching staff.

After a one-week break in their schedule, the Canadiens have lost three in a row. They’ve lost five of six and six of eight since a strong start.

A 5-4 shootout loss in Ottawa against the Senators on Tuesday night marked the end of the line for Julien, who returned for his second go-round as Montreal’s coach midway through the 2016-17 season.

The Canadiens were battling the Toronto Maple Leafs for top spot in the North Division earlier in the season but have since dropped into fourth.

Julien had to leave the team during the first round of the playoffs last year in Toronto when he had a stent installed in a coronary artery. Muller took over the head coaching duties and the Habs extended the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers to six games before bowing out.

The Habs were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team postseason last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round.

Ducharme joined the Canadiens’ coaching staff in April 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He won the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2012-13 and has twice been Canada’s head coach at the world junior championship, winning silver in 2017 and gold in 2018.

Burrows has been a member of the coaching staff for the team’s AHL affiliate in Laval, Quebec, the past two seasons.

“I would like to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk for their contributions to our team over the past five years during which we worked together. I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard,” Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. “In Dominique Ducharme, we see a very promising coach who will bring new life and new energy to our group. We feel that our team can achieve high standards and the time had come for a change.”

POSTPONED: San Jose’s game against Vegas scheduled for Thursday night has been postponed after a Sharks player entered the NHL’s COVID protocol.

It’s the 36th NHL game this season to be postponed for virus-related issues and 40th counting the Texas snowstorm that affected Dallas.

The Sharks’ facilities have been closed. The team canceled practice Wednesday but said that decision and the postponement “was made out of an abundance of caution.”

The NHL had a season-low eight players on its COVID protocol list on Tuesday, five of them from Philadelphia. That’s down from a season high of 59 just 11 days ago.

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

LIGHTNING 3, HURRICANES 0: Ross Colton scored in his NHL debut and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves as Tampa Bay beat visiting Carolina.

Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow also scored, and Alex Killorn had two assists. Vasilevskiy had his 22nd career shutout and first since March 2020 against Montreal.

STARS 3, PANTHERS 0: Anton Khudobin made 43 saves for his second shutout of the season as visiting Dallas ended a six-game losing streak.

Defensemen John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Joel Kiviranta scored for the Stars, who hadn’t won since beating Columbus on the road 6-3 on Feb. 2.

Khudobin has shut out Florida three times in nine career starts. He has 10 career shutouts overall.

FLYERS 4, RANGERS 3: James van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere each scored a power-play goal and Claude Giroux had three assists in his return from a COVID-19 absence to lead Philadelphia over visiting New York.

Chris Kreider had a hat trick for the Rangers on three tap-ins in front.

MAPLE LEAFS 2, FLAMES 1: William Nylander tied it with 1:28 left in regulation and scored 1:06 into overtime to give NHL-leading Toronto a win at home.

Michael Hutchinson stopped 21 shots in his second consecutive start with Frederik Andersen out with a lower-body ailment. Auston Matthews had two assists to help Toronto split the two-game series and improve to 15-4-2.

Andrew Mangiapane scored for Calgary with 3:27 left in the third.


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