Canada reclaimed Olympic women’s hockey gold with a 3-2 win over the United States on Thursday in Beijing.
Captain Marie-Philip Poulin led Canada with two goals and an assist.
Sarah Nurse contributed a goal and an assist, with goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens making 38 saves for the victory.
Poulin scored in a fourth straight Olympic final for Canada for a combined seven goals in those games.
“It’s a good feeling. This group is very special,” Poulin said. “This group has been putting the work in since 2018.
“We’ve been having that motivation with that silver medal, but it’s teamwork, it’s one team from staff to player and it was huge today.”
Hilary Knight scored short-handed and Kendall Coyne Schofield scored a power-play goal for the U.S. with 12.5 seconds left in regulation, making for a tense finish.
“I didn’t realize how much time was there left until I saw 12 seconds on the clock,” Desbiens said. “You just try to make one save at a time.
“It didn’t matter how much time was left on the clock. I think my teammates did a good job just doing the same thing they did all game long.”
Alex Cavallini stopped 18 shots in the loss.
The highest-scoring Olympic team of all Canadian editions outgunned the opposition 57-10 in Beijing for a tournament record.
“Every team I’ve been part of with Team Canada, very special, but this one from rookies to veterans, we were on the same page,” Poulin said.
“People were actually, genuinely happy for each other’s success and people wanted to succeed and that’s huge.”
The Americans outshot Canada 40-21 on Thursday, but the latter generated more sustained pressure in the offensive zone in the first two periods.
The U.S. wasn’t going to bow out quietly, however, with Alex Carpenter hitting the crossbar and Desbiens stopping Knight on a partial breakaway early in the third period.
Cavallini left her net with just over three minutes to go for an extra American attacker.
A Poulin tripping penalty gave the U.S. a two-man advantage with 1:25 remaining in regulation.
Coyne Schofield pulled the Americans within a goal , scoring from Canada’s doorstep.
After three unanswered Canadian goals, Knight cut the deficit to two scoring short-handed for the U.S. on an odd-man rush at 16:39 of the second period.
Canada’s power-play turned the puck over in the offensive zone. Desbiens made the initial save, but Knight converted her own rebound.
The Canadians led 3-0 at 9:08 when Poulin put a rebound off Cavallini’s skate and into the U.S. net off the rush.
Poulin stripped the puck from Kelly Pannek in the American zone for Canada’s second goal at 15:02 of the first period.
The captain wheeled the puck across the top of the faceoff circle with Cavallini unable to corral Poulin’s wrist shot.
Nurse deflected a Claire Thompson pass from the boards past Cavallini at 7:50 of the opening period.
The U.S. had successfully challenged a Natalie Spooner goal 35 seconds earlier for offside.
The Americans pressed early with defender Cayla Barnes putting the puck off the post just over two minutes after puck drop.
Canada has reached every final since women’s hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.
The U.S. took the inaugural gold and edged Canada in a shootout in 2018.
The win in Beijing was especially sweet for Canada’s 13 returning players who felt that heartbreak in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Canada won four consecutive titles from 2002 to 2014. Poulin and Rebecca Johnston became three-time Olympic gold medallists Thursday.
Canadian women rewrote the Olympic hockey record book in multiple categories in Beijing, starting with 57 tournament goals surpassing the 44 of their 2010 predecessors.
Thompson’s three goals and 10 assists were a tournament-high in points by a defender.
With five goals and 13 assists, Nurse set a tournament points record previously held by Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser (2010).
Brianne Jenner, named tournament MVP, tied a tournament-high in goals with a team-leading nine.
“Canada is a hockey nation and hopefully we’ve given everyone a reason to celebrate back home,” Jenner said.
Gold medals in a team sport feel weighty because of the emotion shared by teammates who hail from all parts of a country.
Canada’s Olympic victory in women’s soccer just six months ago inspired their hockey counterparts, who had just centralized in Calgary to being their Beijing preparation.
The hockey players watched the soccer final in their hotel’s meal room. They often talked of how much that game inspired them to win a world championship less than a month later.
Bev Priestman, who coached Canada to soccer gold in Tokyo, spoke with the hockey players before the final in Beijing.
“It was really close to my heart because I’ve seen how our group inspired them to go and beat the U.S.,” Priestman said. “There’s a real special connection there.”
Donna Spencer – The Canadian Press
feature image: COC