US captures elusive gold in women's hockey with thrilling shootout win

Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesTeam USA won gold for the first time since 1998.

  • The US women’s hockey team beat Canada in the gold-medal match Thursday, taking home Olympic gold for the first time since 1998.
  • The game came down to 20 minutes of scoreless overtime and then finally to a shootout, where it took six attempts for the Americans to prevail.
  • With the win, the US women exorcise some demons of past matches against Canada, which had beaten the Americans in the previous two Olympic gold-medal games.

The US women’s hockey team beat Canada in thrilling fashion on Thursday, securing the gold medal at the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1998.

It was a dramatic back-and-forth match filled with history, with the teams so closely knotted that even the shootout needed an extra round before the dust finally settled.

The Americans were first to get on the board. After two missed power-play opportunities earlier in the period, the veteran Hilary Knight was able to sneak a quick deflection past Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados for a goal in the team’s third five-on-four of the game. The goal came with just seconds left in the first period.

But it didn’t take long for Canada to answer.

Just two minutes into the second period, Haley Irwin tied the game at 1-1 with a deflection of her own. Five minutes after that, the Canadian legend and American archvillain Marie-Philip Poulin netted yet another huge goal against the US, putting the Americans behind, 2-1, for the first time.

Poulin has been the source of many a nightmare for the United States. She scored the equaliser with just seconds left in the 2014 gold-medal game before scoring the winner in overtime that gave Canada its fourth consecutive gold medal. Poulin had also dashed the US’s gold-medal dreams four years before that, scoring both goals in a 2-0 Canadian win at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

With her goal Thursday, Poulin became the all-time leading scorer in gold-medal game history.

Later in the third, Poulin stoked the flames even further with a hit to the head on Brianna Decker, which the commentator noted would in most cases be a five-minute penalty in international hockey but in this case went unpenalized.

US head coach Robb Stauber was clear with his feelings on the hit.

USA hockey coachNBCThe US head coach, Robb Stauber, showed his distaste for the referees after a missed penalty.

The arena broke out in boos after a replay of the hit was shown.

For a while, it looked as though it might be the most memorable moment of the final stretch of the game. The US did stir up a bit of offence but was always coming up just one stick short of gathering the loose puck and turning the opportunity into a goal.

But with just six minutes left, the US found an equaliser. After thwarting a Canadian two-on-one push, Monique Lamoureux broke free for the Americans during a poor shift change from Canada, finding the back of the net and tying the game, 2-2.

After a few more missed opportunities by both teams, including yet another penalty kill by the Canadian defence, the game went to overtime. Hockey fans were in for yet another nail-biter.

Playing four-on-four sudden death in the extra period, both teams had plenty of chances, leaving fans at the edge of their seats for a game that could end at any moment. But neither team could finish, thanks in large part to a heroic effort from both goalies and a few distinct *dings* off the post. After 20 frightful but scoreless minutes, the gold medal came down to a shootout.

After the teams traded scores and stops through five shooters, even the shootout became sudden death. It was Jocelyne Lamoureux who finally set the Americans ahead, with a phenomenal deke that left plenty of net open. At the other end of the ice, Maddie Rooney got the stop for the US and, with it, the gold medal.

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