SOCHI – As they so often do, the hockey gods smiled on Canada. And as so often happens, Canada took the hint.
In what ended up being one of the most thrilling games in the history of women’s hockey, Canada got a power play goal from Marie-Philip Poulin at 8:10 of overtime to win its fourth straight Olympic gold medal. Canada looked dead in the water, trailing 2-0 in the third period, until Brianne Jenner and Poulin scored 1:31 apart to tie the game late in the third period. Jenner’s goal came with 3:26 remaining, while Poulin, the hero of the 2010 gold medal game in Vancouver, scored with 54.6 seconds remaining in regulation.
Then came one of the craziest overtime periods you’ll ever see. Both teams had 4-on-3 power plays, with Canada’s power play coming when Hayley Wickenheiser was pulled down on a breakaway. That set the stage for Poulin to win it in overtime.
With Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados pulled for an extra attacker with the score 2-1 for Team USA, Kelli Stack of USA sent the puck the length of the ice to the open net, but it hit the post, setting up the dramatic finish to regulation time.
The game has likely marked the end of a golden era for women’s hockey. It’s almost certain Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford, members of each of Canada’s four previous Olympic teams and two of the best players in the history of the sport, have played their last games for Canada. Julie Chu, who came into this game with two silvers and a bronze medal in the past three Olympics, was denied once again.
From the beginning of the game, the American women pushed the pace against the more experienced Canadian team and continued to play aggressive hockey, attacking the zone with speed and going hard to the net. But Canada used its experience and veteran saavy to stay in the game, stay patient and tie the score. The win was the 20th straight for the Canadian women’s program in the Olympics, with their last loss dating back to the gold medal game of the 1998 tournament in Nagano.