Canadian women’s hockey now has its own Golden Goal.
Canada rallied with two goals in the final four minutes of the third period and then defeated the U.S. 3-2 in overtime at the Sochi Olympics for its fourth straight gold medal in women’s ice hockey.
Marie-Philip Poulin, who had sent the game into overtime on a goal with 55 seconds remaining, scored the winner on a power-play goal 8:10 into the extra period.
It matched the feat of Sidney Crosby, who four years ago in Vancouver scored in overtime to give the Canadian men a gold-medal win against the Americans. It has become known across Canada as the “Golden Goal.”
“It’s incredible,” Poulin said. “I mean, it’s an amazing moment.”
Poulin, 22, who plays at Boston University, also scored twice in the Canadians’ defeat of the U.S. women in the gold-medal game in Vancouver.
The Canadians waved flags as they celebrated the win, while American players stood with their hands on their hips awaiting the medal ceremony. Players on both teams had tears in their eyes.
The Americans, who won the first Olympic title in the event at the 1998 Nagano Games, now have lost to the Canadians in the championship game in three of the past four Games.
“Coming all this way and losing your last game is heartbreaking,” U.S. forward Hilary Knight said. “You go four years and you think you have the game in the bag, and then something happens.”
Trailing 2-0 on goals by Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter, Canada finally scored with 3 1/2 minutes remaining when Brianne Jenner’s shot deflected into the net off the leg of U.S. defenseman Kacey Bellamy.
The Americans almost put the game out of reach with about 1 1/2 minutes remaining when the Canadians pulled goalie Shannon Szabados and the U.S. cleared the puck down the ice, only to have it hit the goal post.
“We were fortunate that it didn’t go in,” Szabados said. “The hockey gods were with us on that one.”
With 55 seconds remaining, Poulin scored from in front of U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter to tie it 2-2 and send it into overtime.
The Americans dominated action in the opening period, taking advantage of three power plays to keep pressure on Szabados. Duggan opened the scoring midway through the second period on a wrist shot into the far upper corner of the net past a screened Szabados. Carpenter scored off a cross-ice pass from Knight on a power play early in the third period to make it 2-0.
Canada extended its gold-medal dominance to 16 years as forwards Jayna Hefford, 36, Hayley Wickenheiser, 35, and Caroline Ouellette, 34, joined former U.S. basketball player Lisa Leslie as the only women to win gold in the same event in four straight Olympics.
Switzerland won the bronze medal earlier by defeating Sweden 4-3.
Canada and the U.S. have dominated women’s hockey since it gained international acceptance in the late 1990s. In addition to combining to win all the Olympic golds, the two countries have played in the finals of all 15 World Championships -- Canada has a 10-5 record in those games, though the U.S. has won four of the past five titles.
The neighboring nations already had met in the Sochi Games, with Canada winning a preliminary-round contest in the renewal of one of the top rivalries in women’s sports.
“It’s awesome, and it’s what makes losing so painful and winning so fun,” U.S. forward Julie Chu said after the Americans preliminary-round loss.
Richard Pound, a former vice president of the International Olympic Committee who has been an executive member of the Canadian Olympic Committee since 1968, was at that earlier game and said then that two Olympic sports mean the most to Canadians -- men’s hockey and women’s hockey.
“We’re kind of regarded as a winter sport country,” he said in an interview between periods of the game. “The hockey is pretty serious for us, of course.”
The fact that there is no professional hockey league for women in the U.S. solidifies the place of the Olympic gold-medal game as the most important in the sport.
“We have had a number of discussions about the women’s game,” National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a Feb. 18 news conference in Sochi. “There doesn’t yet seem to be a framework that would justify from a business standpoint a women’s league in North America, but it’s something we continue to look at. It’s something that needs work and is worthy of further attention.”
International Olympic Committee officials had expressed concern about the lack of parity in the sport. The domination by Canada and the U.S. had even led to questions about whether it should be dropped as part of the Winter Games program.
IOC officials repeatedly expressed support for women’s hockey during the Sochi Games, and said they were encouraged by some of the close scores -- Canada beat Switzerland 3-1, and the U.S. beat Finland 3-1.
Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said at the news conference with Bettman that the sport had developed well since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and that he’s already looking forward to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“It’s much better than it was in Vancouver, we started with 18-0 Canada-Slovak game,” Fasel said. “We have 80,000 girls playing in Canada and we have maybe 4,500 in Finland and Sweden. And in Switzerland and Russia, if we have 2,000 girls playing that would be a lot.
‘‘It’s much better, but we are not there. I hope in Pyeongchang we can have a better result, but we are working very hard.’’
Szabados, the Canadian goalie, said the gold-medal game showed off women’s hockey at its best.
‘‘It was great for women’s hockey, great to showcase it around the world,” she told reporters.
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