SOCHI -- For the fourth consecutive Winter Olympics, Canada women's hockey team received gold medals while the United States had to watch. This time proved to be more incredible, or perhaps more painful, than the others.
Marie-Philip Poulin scored a power-play goal 8:10 into overtime, her second goal of the game, to give Canada a 3-2 victory against the United States and the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in front of 10,639 fans at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Thursday.
"It's an amazing moment," Poulin said. "We all know it was a team effort. We never gave up. I'm so happy we got it back. It was a great journey."
Canada has won four consecutive gold medals since the United States won the inaugural women's tournament at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. That was Canada's last loss at the Olympics, and this victory stretched the winning streak to 20 games.
Poulin scored both goals for Canada in a 2-0 victory against the United States in the final at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Canada also beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and topped Sweden in the 2006 Torino Olympics after the Swedes upset the U.S. in the semifinals.
The Americans have won four of the past five IIHF Women's World Championships and defeated the Canadians in four consecutive exhibitions leading up to Sochi. But Canada won 3-2 in the group stage and then rallied from a 2-0 deficit late in the third period before winning in overtime to retain its title as Olympic champions.
"We train our whole lives to win a gold medal here. It's the world stage," American defenseman Megan Bozek said. "We've been put in situations, not the Olympics like this, the past four years. This is what we trained for.
"We didn't train for a silver. We trained for a gold medal."
The Canadians scored twice in the final 3:26 of regulation. Brianne Jenner started the comeback. Her shot was going well wide of the net, but it hit U.S. defenseman Kacey Bellamy in the knee and changed course.
Poulin punched one past American goaltender Jessie Vetter from the edge of the crease with 54.6 seconds left in regulation to make it 2-2. Before Canada tied it, the U.S. had a chance to ice the game, but Kelli Stack's try at an empty net from her own blue line hit the left post.
"That's how you just know that it wasn't our night," Stack said. "The puck literally just missed going in by an inch. So we just have to tell ourselves that everything happens for a reason and if we were meant to win gold medals that puck would have went in the back of the net."
On the day Canada also won gold in women's curling, forward Hayley Wickenheiser had it on her mind as the puck drifted toward the empty goal.
"I just said, 'Sweep, sweep it. Get it wide,'" Wickenheiser said. "I didn't think it was going to go in by the angle but you never know. It turned the game around, really gave us another life. I mean, what a finish."
The gold medal is the fourth for Wickenheiser, forward Jayna Hefford and captain Caroline Ouellette, all of whom equaled the record for consecutive Winter Olympics with a gold medal in any sport.
It is the first with the team for coach Kevin Dineen, who began the 2013-14 season as coach of the Florida Panthers. He was fired Nov. 8, and a little more than a month later surprisingly took the job as coach of Canada's women's national team less than two months before the trip to Sochi.
"Sometimes a door closes, another one opens. I don't know how that all works out," Dineen said. "I haven't read the manual on where I go from here. It's a little bit of a left turn to take on this job. As I told my players before the game, the first time I met with them, I couldn't wait to get on the ice with them. In the last two months, I think I've become better at what I've done."
U.S. coach Katey Stone had her own opinion regarding the "left turn" Dineen took in his career.
"I think you took a right turn, not a left turn," she said.
The sequence leading up to Poulin's golden goal included a couple of controversial decisions by the officials. Six seconds after Canada defenseman Catherine Ward was sent to the penalty box at 6:09 of overtime, U.S. forward Jocelyne Lamoureux was called for slashing when she took a whack with her stick after goaltender Shannon Szabados covered the puck.
Already 4-on-4 for overtime, it meant nearly two minutes of 3-on-3. Wickenheiser was tripped by Hillary Knight on a breakaway and the referee initially pointed to center ice for a penalty shot, but the call was changed to cross-checking. Poulin scored 39 seconds later on the 4-on-3 after a feed from defenseman Laura Fortino.
After initially saying "no comment" when asked about the controversial calls, Stone offered a more thorough response when asked if the officiating needed to be better at this level.
"I think it is no different -- officiating, developing players, developing programs -- the game is growing by leaps and bounds," Stone said. "The speed and pace of the game is tremendous. It is a great, great product. We have to make sure that every part of the game operation, the game management, is developing at as fast a rate as it possibly can."
U.S. captain Meghan Duggan opened the scoring at 11:57 of the second period, and Alex Carpenter made it 2-0 at 2:01 of the third period with a power-play goal. Knight had the puck on the outside of the left circle and fed Carpenter near the right post for a directed shot off the right post and in.
After the game, the Canadian fans in the arena completed their own rendition of "O, Canada" before the proper version after the medals were awarded. Players then waved flags on the ice and celebrated with victory cigars in the dressing room.
"We believed," Wickenheiser said. "We had the experience and the ability to come back and do what needed to be done. I'm just so proud of our team and we stayed classy the whole way through it. That was a big win for us."
There was jubilation and there was despair, just as there is every time the two superpowers of women's hockey meet at the end of the sport's biggest tournaments.
The Americans were stunned, searching for answers as how this could have happened, and how Canada's stranglehold on the gold continues at this event.
"There really isn't much to say. You can't take the sting away," Stone said. "You just have to tell them how proud of them you are and how much they mean to you and what a tremendous privilege and honor it was to be a part of it."
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