BEIJING (AP) — Canada’s Clutch captain Marie-Philip Poulin has delivered again at the Olympics.
Poulin scored two goals, including her decisive third for the gold medal, and Canada reclaimed its place at the top of the women’s hockey world by ending its run at the Beijing Games with a 3-2 win over the United States. United, defending champions, Thursday.
Ann-Renee Desbiens stopped 38 shots and Sarah Nurse had a goal and an assist in a game where the Canadians took a 3-0 lead and held on for the win. Nurse set the singles tournament record with 18 points.
The Canadians finished 7-0 and spent their time in Beijing displaying a dynamic, deep and relentless offensive attack to claim their fifth Olympic title in seven tournaments, including four against the Americans in what has been one of the fiercest and longest in the sport. .
Equally important, Canada bounced back from a shocking 3-2 shootout loss to the United States at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Canada can now boast of holding the Olympic and world titles at the same time, and for the first time since 2012. The win in Beijing comes nearly six months after Poulin’s overtime goal sealed a 3-2 victory for the Canada over the United States at the world championships, which ended the American winning streak of five consecutive tournament titles.
Hilary Knight, the Americans’ only constant threat in the tournament, scored her team-leading sixth goal on a shorthanded run to close the gap to 3-1. Amanda Kessel scored with 14 seconds left on a wild run in front for a power play goal and with the American net empty for an extra forward.
Alex Cavallini stopped 18 shots in his fourth tournament start.
The Americans, who have two Olympic gold medals, settled for their fourth silver, with all the losses suffered by Canada.
Poulin continued to play until the nickname she earned for scoring decisive goals in big games and especially against the Americans. She scored both goals to seal Canada’s 2-0 victory over the United States at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Four years later in Sochi, Poulin scored in overtime to seal the gold medal again against the Americans.
Poulin gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead with 4:34 left in the first period, then made it 3-0 on a 9:08 run into the second period. Nurse rode up the right wing and fed Brianne Jenner, whose slapper was stopped by Cavallini. The rebound benefited Poulin, who immediately fired a shot from the left of the net and deflected it off Cavallini’s skate.
Knight’s goal with 3:21 left in the second period gave the Americans life, but they couldn’t capitalize on their chances in the third period. Alex Carpenter had two chances five minutes later, only for his one-timer from the left circle to hit the crossbar and then pass Desbiens on a partial breakaway.
It’s been a long and bumpy road back for the Canadiens, who have been forced to reinvent themselves in three years under coach Troy Ryan. The low point followed Canada settling for bronze at the 2019 world championships, which marked the first time in tournament history that the country failed to reach the title game.
In Beijing, the Canadians outclassed the field by outscoring their opponents by a combined margin of 57-10, including a 4-2 victory over the United States in the pool last week.
The U.S. didn’t have enough defense to contain the Canadians’ aggressive forechecking nor the offense to match them, especially without top center Brianna Decker, who broke her left leg in the of the first match of the tournament.
The Americans spent the two weeks struggling to finish their chances, and they entered the game ranking fifth out of 10 teams in efficiency with just 28 goals on 334 tournament-leading shots.
The problems were most evident a minute before Poulin scored to give Canada a 2-0 lead. A Canadian turnover in the neutral zone caused Abby Roque — Decker’s replacement — to move up the left wing. Rather than waiting for her teammates to gain the zone, Roque instead fired a weak shot on the net, which Desbiens easily smothered.
A minute later, two American attackers lazily misplayed Megan Keller’s clearance attempt. Poulin edged the Americans to the puck, turned towards the net and fired a shot that seemed to deflect defenseman Savannah Harmon.
Canada actually scored three times in the first half only to see their first goal, scored by Natalie Spooner, disallowed following a video review of the offside challenge. Replays made it clear that Nurse was offside.
It didn’t seem to matter. Nurse scored 54 seconds later on a faceoff to the left of the American net. Poulin won the face-off and brought it back to Claire Thompson, who delivered a low, hard pass to the center, which Nurse redirected to the right post.
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