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Canada starts fast and resists USA rally to win Olympic gold in women’s hockey

BEIJING — After losing to the United States in the gold medal game four years ago, some discouraged Canadian players took off the silver medals around their necks. On Thursday, they won a color that suited them better.

Canada beat the United States 3-2 for women’s hockey gold at the Beijing Olympics, avenging that bitter shootout loss in Pyeongchang. The country’s fifth Olympic gold ended a dominant run throughout the tournament and once again gave Canada the upper hand in one of sport’s most heated rivalries.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a constant thorn in the American team at the Olympics, scored Canada’s second and third goals as they took a 3-0 lead at the Wukesong Sports Centre. Hilary Knight put the USA on 16 minutes and 39 seconds into the second period with a shorthanded goal, assisted by former Gopher Hannah Brandt of Vadnais Heights.

The US, got a power play with 1:25 to play and retired goaltender Alex Cavallini for a six-to-four advantage. Former Gopher Amanda Kessel scored on a rebound to bring USA to 3-2 with 12.5 seconds left.

The United States outshot Canada 40-21 but converted few of those chances into goals, a problem they had throughout the tournament. Ann-Renée Desbiens was exceptional in goal for Canada, with 38 saves. Cavallini made 18 saves for the United States

The United States won silver for the fourth time. The teams have met in the gold medal game in six of the seven Olympic Games that have included women’s hockey, with Canada now holding a 4-2 advantage.

BOXSCORE: Canada 3, United States 2

Poulin became the only man or woman to score in four gold medal games in Olympic hockey and now has seven goals in gold medal matchups at the Winter Games.

With the Olympics taking place in a pandemic prevention bubble, the arena lacked its usual energy. Dieter Ruehle, organist of the Los Angeles Kings and Dodgers, gave it a good soundtrack of classic tunes. There were a few hundred Chinese spectators invited to the stands, as well as athletes and staff from other countries.

Although the United States was the reigning Olympic gold medalist, Canada won the last title match in the rivalry, beating the United States 3-2 in overtime at the world championships last summer. The American players were eager to avenge that loss, and their 4-2 loss to Canada in the Olympic pool game only intensified those feelings.

The U.S. outshot Canada 53-27 in that game, repeatedly deflected by Desbiens. She entered the gold medal game with a .936 save percentage, scoring just seven goals on 110 shots faced.

Canada set an Olympic record with 54 goals in the six games leading up to the final. The U.S. created the first good scoring chance on Thursday when Brandt placed the puck low in the left circle, with Desbiens out of position and a clear net to shoot at. Brandt’s shot hit the left post.

Canada picked up the pace thereafter, controlling play for long stretches of the period. Natalie Spooner scored at 7:15, but the goal was canceled because a Canadian player was offside.

Just 45 seconds later, Canada scored one that counted. After a face-off in the American zone, Claire Thompson collected the puck near the blue line and spotted Sarah Nurse in the crease. Nurse’s shot, coming off the heel of his stick, hit the right post and rolled behind Cavallini.

Poulin struck at 15:02 to make it 2-0. As the USA tried to get the puck out of its zone, Poulin, near the blue line, intercepted Megan Keller’s corner pass. Poulin skated to the split and shot Cavallini.

Cavallini made two good saves early in the second period, and the United States started to generate more chances. But Poulin made Canada’s lead 3-0 when she scored on a rebound at 9:08. Cavallini stopped Brianne Jenner’s initial shot, but the rebound sprung directly at a wide-open Poulin, who knocked it down past the sliding Cavallini.

The American offense continued to push, collecting 13 shots to Canada’s six in the second period. Knight’s persistence scored the Americans’ first goal. With Kendall Coyne Schofield in the box, Brandt grabbed the puck in the American zone and took off with Knight on a two-on-one. Knight’s first two shots hit a Canadian defenseman and Desbiens, but the puck came back to her and she dunked it.

In the third period, the Americans pushed hard on offense and again generated good chances. But they couldn’t get past Desbiens before Kessel’s rebound goal with 12.5 seconds left.

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