Marie-Philip Poulin scored her second goal of the night on the power play at 8:10 of overtime to give Canada its fourth straight Olympic gold.
The loss was stunning for the Americans who led 2-0 with less than four minutes to play in regulation time.
“Marie-Philip Poulin is the best hockey player in women’s hockey, hands down,” Jayna Hefford enthused about the gold-medal hero, who repeated her efforts of four years ago when she also scored the winning goal for gold. “When you have her on your team you know she’s going to come thorugh in the big moments.”
“I’m crying more because I look at my team mates and I know how hard we’ve worked every step of this journey,” said Team USA’s Lyndsey Fry. “I think that’s the most heartfelt game we’ve ever played. We played for each other. It stinks, but we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
The Canadian women now tie the Canadian men of 1920-1932 and the Soviet Union of 1964-76 for the most successive gold medals in Olympic hockey history (four). Tonight’s win was also their record 20th Olympic win in a row.
And the feat was accomplished with Kevin Dineen behind the bench, a late replacement for coach Dan Church just two months before the Sochi Olympics began.
Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, and captain Caroline Ouellette are now the only hockey players to have won four Olympic gold medals. Six men from the Soviet Union and two Canadian women have won three, but after tonight, Hefford, Ouellette, and “Wick” are in a class of distinction all their own.
The winning goal came after Hayley Wickenheiser had been hauled down by Hilary Knight on a long breakaway to draw a penalty. Poulin snapped a shot into the empty cage after a great pass from Laura Fortino to the back side of the play.
“I’m just so proud of my team and the way we stuck together,” Wickenheiser said. “We found a way to stay composed and calm. No matter what the score was, we believed in ourselves the whole way through. There was never an ounce of panic, so that was good.”
“I don’t know what to say, it’s so surreal and a dream come true again,” Poulin told IIHF.com on ice immediately after scoring.
“He was so confident in us,” Poulin said of Dineen. “Going into overtime, he just told us to be calm and play our game. He totally believed in us. I think the calmness from our coaches helped us believe in ourselves. We worked hard all year to be in this moment, and there was no way we were going to give up.”
Fortino was sensational on the blue line, logging 30:21 of ice time, most of any player. She was on for 5:21 of the 8:10 of overtime.
And just as the Canadians had done last week in their 3-2 preliminary-round win, they shut down the top U.S. line of Amanda Kessel-Kendall Coyne-Brianne Decker completely.
Just when it seemed as though the rivalry between the two teams couldn’t get better, it has.
Canada’s goalie Shannon Szabados was great in winning her second gold, and just as in 2010, Poulin scored two goals.
“It was a hard game,” Hayley Wickenheiser said. “We came back. We never quit, and we believed in ourselves. We had great strategy, and we had the fitness and the composure to pull it off in the end.”
Szabados established her presence in the first period in a big way. The Americans outshot Canada 11-9, not a huge number either way, but more than half the Americans’ shots were high-quality chances.
Tara Watchorn took her first of three minor penalties early on, but Szabados stoned Anne Schleper and Gigi Marvin in quick succession.
Canada took another penalty a short time later, and this time it was Kacey Bellamy who was robbed from close range. On a third power play, Szabados took a sure goal from Knight with a glove save and then stopped Brianna Decker from the slot with a pad save.
Canada had two shorter power plays but didn’t generate many chances on either. The best came from Poulin after the first Canada penalty had expired, but her shot off the left wing missed the far post.
The second period was a lot tighter and more nervous both ways as players realized the importance of every shift, every possible error. Vetter made her best save on a Canada power play when she got her pad down to stop a close-in shot from Meghan Agosta.
The Americans got on the scoreboard on a turnover in the centre-ice area. Catherine Ward carelessly backhanded the puck off the boards, but Jocelyne Lamoureux picked it up and went in on goal. She was checked, and Ward got back only to screen Szabados as Meghan Duggan let go a wrist shot that found the top corner at 11:57.
Canada had a great opportunity to tie the game. On a power play, it drew another penalty, but instead of giving the puck to the U.S. right away to maximize the two-man advantage, the Canadians passed the puck around looking for a scoring chance, killing about 20 seconds off the 5-on-3. Nevertheless, the team could do little with the 32-second opportunity.
The U.S. got that much needed second goal early in the third when Watchorn took her third minor penalty of the game. Knight made a sensational pass through traffic in front and Alex Carpenter just got her stick on the ice to re-direct it past Szabados.
Most of the rest of the period was played flawlessly by the U.S. The team kept Canada at bay and got the puck deep, killing off the clock to perfection. Gold seemed a certainty, but at 16:34, on a typical rush, Brianne Jenner took a shot that went off the leg of Kacey Bellamy in front and past Vetter, igniting the Canadian bench.
“It went off me and into the net,” Bellamy described. “I didn’t see it at all, I looked back and it was in the net. When that happens, you just try to keep your head up, bounce back, and keep going into the next play.”
As time wound down, coach Kevin Dineen pulled Szabados, and the drama reached a new high. A linesman got tangled with Ward at the blue line, and Kelli Stack got the puck, shooting it the length of the ice in one motion.
Guess what? The puck hit the post.
Canada came back and connected. Rebecca Johnston passed the puck from the corner in front of the U.S. net, and Vetter deflected the puck right onto the stick of Poulin, who made no mistake. Tie game.
Just 54.6 seconds were left on the clock, and the American bench was left stunned, having to go to the dressing room for a most improbable fourth period.
“I just kept thinking we were going to win this thing,” Duggan said. “I looked over at one of our goaltenders and said, ‘There’s no way they’re going to score two goals on Vets. She’s hot right now.’ She’s an outstanding goaltender. I think you get a couple of bounces; they’re swarming around the net; and, pucks go in.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
IHLC: With the win, Canada also ensures they will hold on to the International Hockey Lineal Championship until the 2014 Four Nations Cup in November. The U.S. entered the Games as IHLC champions, after four straight exhibition wins over Canada in December, successfully defending in Sochi against Finland and Switzerland before losing to Canada in the preliminary round in a 3-2 loss on February 12. Canada defended the IHLC with a 3-1 win over Switzerland in the Semifinals, and then with their Gold Medal victory. This is Canada’s record 30th reign as IHLC champs, their 120th IHLC game against the U.S., and their fourth straight Olympics where they have left as champions (both with the IHLC and Gold Medal, of course) – for more, check out the IHLC @ Olympics & Invitationals page.
02:01 – PEN – Watchorn, body checking
06:13 – PEN – Mikkelson, roughing
08:01 – PEN – Knight, cross checking
14:04 – PEN – Watchorn, tripping
15:30 – PEN – Bellamy, holding
27:10 – PEN – Stack, hooking
31:57 – GOAL – Duggan (J. Lamoureux)
32:45 – PEN – team, too many players
34:14 – PEN – Schleper, cross checking
40:07 – PEN – Watchorn, tripping
42:01 – PP GOAL – Carpenter (Knight, Stack)
56:34 – GOAL – Jenner (Mikkelson, Larocque)
59:05 – EA GOAL – Poulin (Johnston, Irwin)
66:09 – PEN – Ward, cross checking
66:15 – PEN – J. Lamoureux, slashing
67:31 – PEN – Knight, cross checking
68:10 – PP2 GOAL – Poulin (Fortino)
W: Szabados (27-29)
L: Vetter (28-31)
SHOTS ON GOAL
9+8+10+4 = 31
11+5+8+5 = 29
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Laura Fortino, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Lauriane Rougeau, Catherine Ward, Tara Watchorn. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Mélodie Daoust, Jayna Hefford (A), Haley Irwin, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Caroline Ouellette (C), Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Hayley Wickenheiser (A).
Goaltenders: Molly Schaus, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Megan Bozek, Gigi Marvin, Michelle Picard, Josephine Pucci, Anne Schleper, Lee Stecklein. Forwards: Alexandra Carpenter, Julie Chu, Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan (C), Lyndsey Fry, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Kelli Stack.