Canadiens fire coach Claude Julien amid losing stretch

FILE - Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, center, looks on from the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, in this, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, file photo.  The Canadiens lost 3-1. The struggling Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, following a three-game skid. Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme was appointed interim coach.(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)
FILE - Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, center, looks on from the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, in this, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, file photo. The Canadiens lost 3-1. The struggling Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, following a three-game skid. Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme was appointed interim coach.(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MONTREAL, QUE – The struggling Montreal Canadiens fired head 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."

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