Canadiens use lineup changes to avoid sweep in Game 4 of Final

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MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens made changes to their lineup and defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in overtime in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bell Centre on Monday.

Forward Jake Evans replaced Jesperi Kotkaniemi in a forward group that altered the top three lines, and defensemen Alexander Romanov and Brett Kulak are the third defense pair, replacing Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill.

The changes came after the Canadiens lost Game 3 6-3 on Friday and were on the verge of being swept in the best-of-7 series.

Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said the moves were made not only to make Montreal quicker but to provide more energy. He said reuniting Evans on a line with Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen brings a number of aspects that can serve the Canadiens well.

“Speed,” Ducharme said. “They can play against the other team’s top lines. They showed it against [Edmonton Oilers forward Connor] McDavid’s [line] in two games. Brought offense at the same time. Brings energy. Many things as a line that can be doing a lot of stuff on the ice.”

Kotkaniemi scored eight points (five goals, three assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games and had one assist and five shots on goal in the first three games of the Final. Ducharme said he told the forward not to take the decision personally.

“I took the time to sit down with him and explain,” he said. “Again, it’s not a punishment. Every player wants to play, wants to be on the ice. That’s normal. We have 28 guys right now and they all want to be on the ice. That we all understand. It’s just a matter of options that we have in the team and what we want to achieve.”

Tyler Toffoli moved to the first line to take Lehkonen’s spot with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. Josh Anderson, who had been on the third line with Byron and Kotkaniemi, took Toffoli’s spot on the second line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

The only line remaining intact from Game 3 was the fourth line of Joel Armia, Eric Staal and Corey Perry.

Ducharme said the changes among the defensemen were made for the same reason as the changes at forward, to increase Montreal’s speed.

“What we want to see is we want to bring a little more skating on our back end with those two guys, and we feel it’s important against [the Lightning] tonight,” he said.

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