Canada scored two goals in the final four minutes of regulation and completed the stunning comeback with a goal from Marie-Philip Poulin in overtime to shock the United States, 3-2, in the women's hockey gold-medal game.
The U.S. led 2-0 and had an empty-net chance from mid-ice clank off the post late in the third period during the heartbreaker.
It was another close, hard-fought instant classic between these two rivals. The two sides have now accounted for all five gold medals in the event. The United States won the first one back in 1998 before what is now four straight Canadian triumphs.
Let's check out how the championship game played out in the Bolshoy Ice Dome and how the women's hockey podium shapes up. It's followed by a recap of the tournament's final contest and the updated medal count in Sochi.
Scoring Summary and Women's Hockey Medal Results
|Women's Hockey Gold-Medal Game|
|Team||1st Period||2nd Period||3rd Period||OT||Total|
|Women's Hockey Medals|
Quite simply, these two teams are much better than any other opponent they face on the international stage. It's not even close. It was widely expected they would meet in the final and there was rarely a moment where it seemed that wouldn't be the case.
The dominance doesn't take away from the moment, though. American star Amanda Kessel illustrated that in her Twitter comments leading up to the game:
After the teams exchanged a couple chances early, the United States was able to generate a couple of power plays.
As expected, the defensively sound Canadians clogged the middle of the ice. It forced the U.S. offense to take shots from distance and pass around the perimeter. The result was a lot of zone time for the Americans, but few great chances.
When they did get a close-range look, Team Canada goalie Shannon Szabados was up to the task. She made some key glove saves early to keep the contest scoreless.
Once the tide began to shift in favor of Canada, Szabados' counterpart at the opposite end of the rink, Jessie Vetter, was equally impressive in what are usually nervy moments in big games. She helped calm the American by freezing the puck whenever possible.
The first period ended without a puck finding the net. The United States held an 11-9 shot edge. Otherwise, it was pretty even throughout with both sides having a couple promising stretches of play and each goalie rising to the occasion.
Canada controlled play for the first half of the second period. Much like in the first meeting between the teams, it was able to pin the United States deep in its own end for extended stretches by winning battles along the boards and in the neutral zone.
It was the Americans who struck first, however.
An uncharacteristic turnover by Catherine Ward turned into a rush the other way for the U.S.. The puck popped loose behind a scrum of players in front of Szabados, which was promptly picked up and fired into the top corner by Meghan Duggan.
Longtime American soccer star Julie Foudy loved the finish by the captain:
Canada had a huge opportunity to get back level almost immediately after the goal. Two successive penalties on the United States gave the three-time defending champions a two-woman advantage for about 30 seconds. It couldn't capitalize.
Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News noted Julie Chu, a veteran forward, played some defense during the penalty kill:
The strong defensive play allowed the Americans to head into the third period with a 1-0 lead. It was the same edge they held after the second period in the first meeting when Canada won, 3-2.
This time, the United States was able to stretch its lead to two. The second goal came on the power play after Canadian defender Tara Watchorn took her third penalty of the game.
Following some nice puck movement, Hilary Knight found Alex Carpenter crashing the net, and the Boston College star tapped the puck past Szabados from short range.
ESPN Stats & Info noted it was one of the 19-year-old Massachusetts native's many successes of the Games:
Canada was able to cut the lead back to one with just over three minutes left. Brianne Jenner made a nice play to cut toward the front, and her shot seemed to deflect off American blueliner Kacey Bellamy before finding its way into the net.
The United States nearly put the game on ice with a long-range effort toward the empty net. Instead, it struck the post and kept Canada alive.
Sure enough, the Canadians tied it up a short time later.
There was a battle behind the net and the puck skittered toward the front. Vetter proceeded to unknowingly poke-check it right onto the stick of Poulin. The forward easily tied the game up with 55 seconds left.
Fox Sports Live summed it up:
The game really opened up in overtime with four players on each side rather than the normal five. The United States had a handful of good chances just within the first minute of the extra period, but wasn't able to find the net.
It looked like the Americans were going to get a golden opportunity after a penalty to Ward, making it 4-on-3. But just six seconds into the advantage, there was a very questionable slashing call on Jocelyne Lamoureux to level the playing field again.
Jeremy White of WGR made his thoughts on the American penalty clear:
Another penalty on the United States gave Canada the power play, and it converted right after it became a 4-on-3 advantage to end the game.
Poulin took a pass from Laura Fortino and caught Vetter, who had been terrific to that point, out of position. She coolly shot the puck into the empty half of the net to earn the Canadians another gold.
As another women's hockey tournament reaches its conclusion, the lingering question is whether the event will have a positive impact on the sport. Parity is a necessity if the women's game is going to succeed over the long haul.
The battles between Canada and the United States are normally tremendous. But it's hard to build a major tournament around the same two contenders every time. Some better competition in the earlier rounds would make for a much more intriguing event.
That said, Canada certainly isn't worried about those issues right now, especially after a memorable win like that. It has an Olympic gold medal to celebrate for the fourth straight time.
Updated Medal Count