Canada prevails vs. rival Team USA to win women's hockey gold at Beijing Olympics

Canada defeated archrival Team USA to win women's ice hockey gold Thursday at the Beijing Olympics in the latest thrilling chapter of the sport's greatest rivalry.

Marie-Philip Poulin had two goals and an assist while goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens made 38 saves in Canada's 3-2 win. Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel scored for the U.S.

This was the sixth meeting between the U.S. and Canada for Olympic women's ice hockey gold since the event was added in 1998. The Americans won twice (1998, 2018) while Canada has won gold five times -- four times against the U.S. and against Sweden in 2006, when the U.S. settled for bronze.

Canada finished the tournament with an Olympic-record 57 goals scored. The Canadians previously defeated the Americans 4-2 in the preliminary round.

The Canadians appeared to take the lead 6:56 into the game on a Natalie Spooner goal, but U.S. coach Joel Johnson smartly challenged the play for an offside and video review confirmed it. Alas, it was a brief reprieve: Canada's Sarah Nurse deflected a Claire Thompson point shot past goalie Alex Cavallini for the 1-0 lead just 54 seconds later.

Poulin, who had a secondary assist on Nurse's goal, extended the lead to 2-0 with 4:58 left in the period. Poulin stole the puck from forward Kelly Pannek and floated a screened shot that snuck under Cavallini's arm for her fifth goal of the tournament.

It was the fourth straight game for the U.S. without a first-period goal. In the preliminary round, the Americans carried play in the first period with a 16-5 shot advantage. The shots were 11-11 in the first period here, with Canada carrying most of the play. U.S. center Hannah Brandt hit the post with a shot on Team USA's best chance of the period.

"It's obviously not the start we wanted," said Team USA captain Kendall Coyne-Schofield.

Poulin extended the lead to 3-0 at 10:52 of the second period, her second goal of the game. Defender Erin Ambrose cleared the puck from her own zone to Nurse, who was bolting at center ice. The Canadians had numbers in the attacking zone. Brianne Jenner took a shot that Cavallini kicked right to Poulin, who kicked the puck to her stick for the goal.

Poulin is the only hockey player -- woman or man -- to score in four Olympic gold-medal games. Seven of the 17 goals she's scored in the Olympics have been in gold-medal games. Nurse, meanwhile, passed Hockey Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser for most points in a single Olympics (18) with her assist.

But the U.S. earned a spark of life courtesy of Knight and her linemate Brandt. They were killing a Megan Keller holding penalty when Brandt forced a turnover in the defensive zone. Knight -- playing in her USA Hockey record 22nd Olympic game -- motored into the Canadian zone, had a shot blocked, but stayed with the rolling rebound to score a slick short-handed goal that cut the lead to 3-1.

The U.S. continued its push in the third period, and finally found some pressure from their secondary scorers. Alex Carpenter hit a post with a shot and then was stopped by Desbiens on a partial breakaway. The Americans had a power-play opportunity with 9:21 left in the game and were unable to register a shot.

Cavallini was pulled with over three minutes remaining in the game. Cheers from the Canadian bench echoed through the mostly empty arena each time the puck was cleared out of their zone. Poulin took a tripping penalty with 1:25 to play, allowing the Americans to play 6-on-4. With 12.5 seconds remaining, Kessel finally broke through by smacking a rebound from the top of the crease to make it 3-2.

It was too little, too late, despite the Americans significantly outshooting Canada after the Poulin goal. The previous two gold-medal games between these archrivals went beyond regulation. This one did not and ended with Canada putting an exclamation point on perhaps the most dominant single tournament run in Olympic women's ice hockey history.