ST. LOUIS -- They took a deep breath and raised their sticks, appreciative of the crowd and the chants and the belief. This was a moment the women had all been waiting for, anticipating, and now it was over, and they could see what it might mean for themselves and their careers.
The bigger implications could wait, though, for a moment. For now, the women basked.
"It was a really heartfelt moment," Hilary Knight said. "I mean, we made history here."
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The Canadian All-Stars and American All-Stars stood on the ice at Enterprise Center, having just played the Elite Women's 3-on-3 presented by adidas at the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka. Canada won 2-1 on goals by Rebecca Johnston 54 seconds into the first period and Melodie Daoust at 2:25 of the second, and with stellar goaltending from Ann-Renee Desbiens, who made 15 saves.
That mattered, sure. It always matters when Canada and the United States play each other in women's hockey, in hockey in general. It is, as American forward Knight put it, "a blood-filled rivalry."
But this game took two sides and made them one, if only for a moment. And not just because they were sharing a dressing room.
"It was a little strange after the game," Canadian forward Sarah Nurse said. "We wanted to celebrate a little bit and we were looking across the room and we see the Americans. Sorry guys."
Video: CAN@USA: Desbiens stops 15 shots in Canada's 2-1 win
And so, on the ice in those postgame moments, they stood there and looked, and let the anxiety drain away.
"I was excited," Canadian forward Natalie Spooner said. "To be honest, I was a little bit nervous going out there. It's a huge game for us."
It was the third consecutive NHL All-Star Game with women participants, with each year bringing a greater profile. Two years ago at Tampa Bay, four women demonstrated events at the All-Star Game. Last season, Kendall Coyne Schofield was added to the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition, competing against the NHL players and finishing seventh.
This season, they would have an event of their own, a game of 3-on-3 that, despite being something that the women have rarely played, managed to showcase their speed and talent, their passing ability and shooting touch.
"I think the show we put on was pretty good," Spooner said. "It was back and forth, 16 shots each team, which makes it a really close game, but we just had a blast."
Video: CAN@USA: Daoust wires home wrist shot on the rush
They weren't the only ones. From the "USA! USA!" chants to the appreciative NHL players, the game created some of the most electric moments of the evening.
"It's great," Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "You could even expand it more and have the best women in the world come in and play a tournament like we do for the All-Star Game. I think it would be entertaining.
"I think over the past couple years they've taken the right steps, with Kendall doing the fastest skater last year and the girls being around for a few years now to be part of the skills competition. I know they were excited about the opportunity to play an actual game tonight, and they were entertaining."
Video: CAN@USA: Johnston scores opening goal on breakaway
That was all they wanted to be.
"I think every time we've come, we've proven ourselves," Schofield said. "We've put on a good show."
The Americans made it 2-1 at 4:24 of the second 10-minute period, when Knight scored off a pass from Annie Pankowski. But despite a late push, when the teams had settled into the 3-on-3 hockey and found their footing, the Americans couldn't get the tying goal, in large part due to Desbiens, who made a final save on Amanda Kessel at the buzzer.
Video: CAN@USA: Knight pots slick backhander on breakaway
That mattered. And it didn't.
That's what they thought about when it was over, acknowledging a crowd of hockey fans they hoped would understand the game they were playing was not all that different from the game to be played by the NHL all-stars, fans they hoped would watch them in other venues on other days.
"It's kind of a crazy feeling," Spooner said. "Even when we were getting called out for the first lineup, I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing.' We're actually here. We're at the NHL All-Star Weekend and we're going to get to play and we're going to get to showcase our talent.
"Then, when we got to go on the ice with all the players, it's like, these are some of the best male players in the world, but then again we're some of the best female players in the world and we're here on the same stage.
"We're all hockey players. We're all the best at what we do, and we get to be here together."