BEIJING — For more than a decade, the two constants of the United States-Canada women’s hockey rivalry have been the evenness between the two teams and Marie-Philip Poulin scoring goals in Olympic gold medal games.
Only one of those things was on display for most of Thursday’s gold medal contest at the Beijing Olympics, and it wasn’t parity.
Poulin scored twice and Canada snatched gold back from the U.S. in a 3-2 win, as the Americans failed to defend their Olympic crown from four years ago.
The pings from two shots that hit the post – one from Hannah Brandt in the first period, another off Alex Carpenter’s stick in the third – will haunt Team USA for the next four years. The two misses provided the difference in a game Canada jumped out to a 3-0 lead in and mostly controlled, save for an inspired – and desperate – third-period effort from the U.S.
According to NBC Sports, the three-goal deficit during the second period was the largest between the teams in a Games since their first Olympic meeting in 1998.
Hilary Knight’s shorthanded score with 3:21 left in the second period made it 3-1. The Americans cut the deficit to 3-2 with a power-play goal from Amanda Kessel with 13.5 seconds left in the game. But the U.S. couldn’t convert enough opportunities to hang with Canada, despite once again outshooting the Canadians 40-21, much as they did nine days ago in a 4-2 loss in group play.
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Sarah Nurse started the scoring 7:50 into the game by steering a pass into the slot off the right post. Poulin scored in her fourth straight Olympic final seven minutes later on a shot U.S. goaltender Alex Cavallini (18 saves) should have seen better to make it 2-0. Poulin scored again off a rebound nine minutes into the second period to put the U.S. in an essentially insurmountable hole.
Poulin is the first player – male or female – to score in four gold medal games, per Hockey Canada.
Canadian goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens gave the U.S. attack fits all game once again and made 38 saves. She was mobbed by her teammates as the final horn sounded and Canada stood on top of the women’s hockey world once again.
All the U.S. players and staff could do was watch the celebration and wait for their silver medals.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.