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Canadiens make lineup changes ahead of Game 4

Keith Jones, Liam McHugh, Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter break down the top options for the Conn Smythe Trophy and explain why the Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy is the clear favorite.

NBC’s coverage of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final continues with Monday’s Game 4 between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. Canadiens-Lightning stream coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Canadiens face the ultimate uphill climb in the Stanley Cup Final.

Down 3-0, against a Lightning team yet to lose consecutive games in the postseason, the Canadiens are facing things one game at a time. In Game 4, they’ll try to shake up their lineup in hopes for a more promising result.

Thus far, it hasn’t been pretty.

After surrendering five goals in Game 1, the Canadiens played a tighter Game 2 -- at least, on the scoreboard -- before another goal fest in Game 3.

Interim head coach Dominique Ducharme told reporters ahead of Game 4 they would take Jesperi Kotkaniemi out of the lineup and insert Jake Evans and work Alexander Romanov and Brett Kulak in a rotation.

Meanwhile. Tomas Tatar remains out of the lineup since the First Round despite being the fourth-leading scorer on the Canadiens this season.

“I like Tuna. Tuna is a good player,” said Ducharme ahead of Game 4. “It’s just a matter of [line] combinations and playing at that time of the year. At this point, he hasn’t played in a while. It’s even maybe a tougher spot [to return]. But it’s all about the team and what guys can bring together. We like the fit of our four lines tonight.”

Tatar has the most points on the Canadiens over the past three seasons and Kotkaniemi leads the Canadiens with 1.31 goals per 60 minutes during five-on-five situations. While the Canadiens have struggled to score -- five goals in three games, with three coming in a single contest -- it’s a drastic move.

“It’s nothing against him or anything else, but we have depth and we have options. That’s the way it is,” said Ducharme.

Evans hasn’t played since Game 1, and he’ll skate with Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen. Ducharme is also expected to move Tyler Toffoli -- scoreless during the Final -- to a line with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher.

On the defense side, Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson are out while Romanov and Kulak see their first action since June 14, which was Game 1 in the semi final with Vegas.

For a team up against the wall, changes make sense. It’s still a lot, especially taking out Kotkaniemi, who has nine points in 18 postseason games.

They have one chance to save their season with Game 4, and then every day after that is their last day to save their season again. For now, though, the Habs are hoping these changes aid them in getting another game in Tampa Bay, and forcing the Lightning into a spot they haven’t faced all postseason.

CANADIENS VS. LIGHTNING (TB leads series 3-0)

Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Lightning 6, Canadiens 3
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock) - livestream
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)

*if necessary


Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.