FINAL SCORE: Canada 3, USA 2 (Overtime)
Marie-Philip Poulin is the Canadian Idol ... again.
The hero of Canada's 2010 Olympic championship scored twice, including the Golden Goal on a five-on-three overtime power play, to lead Canada to a stunning 3-2 victory over Team USA and a fourth consecutive gold medal.
The Americans held a 2-0 lead with less than four minutes go and were on the verge of avenging their 2010 defeat in Vancouver when Brianne Jenner drew the Canadians to within one with a hard-charging backhander that appeared to deflect off a Team USA defender and past netminder Jessie Vetter.
Canada pulled goaltender Shannon Szabados for the extra attacker with 1:35 to play. Seconds later, an American clearing bid sailed down the ice and squarely off the post, an inch or less away from clinching the contest.
That near-miss set the stage for Poulin's first heroic moment when she buried a Rebecca Johnston pass for the equalizer with just 54 seconds remaining.
Team USA came out flying to start the overtime period and created several thrilling chances, forcing Canada's Catherine Ward to take a penalty. But the referees negated that sketchy call with an even worse one on American Jocelyne Lamoureux seconds later. In the ensuing three-on-three play, Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser broke in alone on Vetter, forcing American star Hilary Knight to haul her down. Canada's power play, which had struggled all evening, finally found its groove on the four-on-three, expertly working the puck around the zone until it landed on the stick of Poulin. Her quick wrister beat a helpless Vetter for the winner at 8:10 of OT.
While it likely will go down as one of the greatest women's games ever played, it was an absolutely devastating loss for Team USA, a group that was less than a minute, and an inch, away from claiming gold.
To get a better sense of the flow of the game, scroll down to the bottom of the page and read your way back up.
3:19: Thinking of Dan Church right now, the coach who resigned/was fired by Team Canada just weeks ahead of the Games, and Kevin Dineen, who was airlifted in at the last minute and somehow brought this group together despite having no experience coaching the women's game. Both men deserve their share of credit for this stunning victory.
3:04: That empty net post for Team USA when it was still 2-1....that's how close they were to gold. And despite Poulin's pair, the hero for Team Canada was clearly Shannon Szabados. So many big stops, but none bigger than those chances early in OT when Canada was forced back on its heels by a ferocious American assault.
3:01: Second consecutive two-goal effort from Marie-Philip Poulin in the gold medal game. Canada was on a five-on-three power play at the time. With this win, Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouelette set a Canadian record for most career Olympic gold medals with four.
3:00: Absolutely gut wrenching defeat for Team USA, which had this game in the bag until they started hanging back in the final minutes. Not to say they deserved a better result, but they deserved better than losing it on a five-on-three. Can't argue the Knight call, but the whistle never should have come out of the pocket on the first two calls of the OT.
2:52: THE GOLDEN GOAL! Poulin for Canada on the power play!
2:51: Tremendous effort by Knight to make up space on the breaking Wickenheiser. Smart penalty to take on her part. Canada with a four on three advantage.
2:49: WOW! How was that not a penalty shot? Wickenheiser on a clean break, Hilary Knight hauls her down from behind and it's called a cross-check. Unbelievable. Like I said earlier, the officiating was going to be a factor in this one.
2:45: And there's the even-up call. Team USA's J. Lamoureux takes a slashing penalty that's even worse than the call on Ward. We're playing three-on-three now.
2:43: Team USA to the power play 6:09 into OT. Team Canada caught scrambling in their own zone, Catherine Ward goes to the box. Wow...an infraction, sure, but not sure they had to call that one at this point in the game.
2:39: Three minutes of pulse-pounding action. USA with the best of the chances so far.
2:37: Ward coughs it up behind the Canadian net, leading to two five-alarm chances. It's all Team USA.
2:36: And we're underway.
2:35: And is anyone really talking about pulling women's hockey from the Olympics after today? Switzerland comes back from down two in the third to win bronze and now this.
2:31: So, what's being said in the rooms right now? Team Canada has all the momentum after dominating the final 3:30. They have to come out early and attack in the opening minutes with the exact same type of play that got them into extra time--drive the net with the puck and make sure they have bodies crashing from behind. For Team USA, it's take a deep breath, look around the room and ask who wants to be hero. This is a moment every elite athlete dreams of, and someone has a chance to grab hockey immortality. It's right there for them.
2:25: So is Poulin Canada's Zach Parise, a momentary hero, or is she Yvan Cournoyer, setting the stage for the winning goal? We'll see. Twenty minutes of sudden death await.
2:23: Team USA's Kelli Stack won the defensive zone draw prior to that goal, but her teammates couldn't corral the loose puck in the corner. Unbelievable, and unbelievably perfect, finish to regulation.
2:20: GOAL TEAM CANADA! Tie game with 54.6 seconds remaining! Marie Philip Poulin buries a Rebecca Johnson pass to tie this one up.
2:18: Canadian coach Kevin Dineen calls his timeout with 1:14 remaining.
2:16: Two minutes to go and a brilliant stop by Vetter on a hard net drive by Spooner, the first noticeable play of the game for Canada's premier power forward. Canada finally showing the urgency that's eluded them most of the game. Now Canada pulls Szabados for the extra attacker.
2:14: TEAM CANADA Goal! Brianne Jenner with 3:26 to go in the third. She gets the blue line, cuts to the middle and fires a wrister from the left dot that may have hit an American defender before beating Vetter.
2:12: Team USA standing five across at the blueline, repelling every Canadian bid to enter the zone. Four minutes to go.
2:10: Gigi Marvin dodges a bullet on a clearing pass that ends up in the stands. Must have glanced off the glass, but looked like it cleared it clean. 5:27 to go in the third.
2:09: Canada coming at the U.S. in waves with under seven to go. Vetter tested on a wraparound chance, but keeps her sheet clean.
2:03: We're past the midway point of the third. Team USA frustrating Canada's attempts to get set up in the American zone. They're really starting to feel it now.
2:01: Hilary Knight and Alex Carpenter almost connect on a two-on-one but Szabados keeps Canada alive for now.
2:00: Tera Watchorn's going to get the goat horns after this one if the score stays the same, but her lack of discipline isn't what killed Canada's chances. Their inability to penetrate the American D and test Vetter with something other than a 50 footer from a bad angle is the difference.
1:53: Annie Schleper with a monster game for Team USA. Big defender is blocking shots, taking the body and refusing to allow Canada to gain any purchase in the middle of the ice. Masterful.
1:52: Four shots for Team USA on the power play. Expect Canada to come hard over the next couple shifts. This could be the game.
1:49: TEAM USA Goal! Carpenter cashes in on the doorstep with seven seconds left on the PP. Terrific feed from Hilary Knight to set up the dagger Now 2-0 for Team USA.
1:45: Puck drops on the third period and Watchorn draws a penalty seven seconds in. Her third of the game. USA to the PP.
1:35: Shots on goal now 17-16 for Canada. Four shots for Team USA's Hilary Knight. Meghan Agosta leads Canada with four.
1:32: Here's a look at Meghan Duggan's go-ahead goal, courtesy of the tireless @peteblackburn
1:30: And that's the end of two. Canada has the clear advantage in possession, but Team USA has the only stat that matters, taking a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
1:29: Team USA with best chance of the period, Knight alone in front, Szabados with the save.
1:25: Full marks to Team USA PK, but Canada's power play has been brutal. Rushing shots, poor decisions with the puck. It's the difference in the game.
1:23: Americans with a magnificent penalty kill. Canadian passes/shots consistently steer aside by sticks and bodies. By my count, five shot blocks. Even up now.
1:21: First American penalty is over. No shots on the two-man advantage.
1:20: Unbelievable tactical error by Canada. A second call on Team USA as Schleper goes for high sticking, but instead of turning over the puck to maximize the five-on-three, the continue to control the play as the time on the first penalty winds down.
1:17: Officials convening to discuss potential too many men on the ice call. Nice that they're taking the time to get it right, but man this has taken more than a minute. Now Team USA to the box. Seeing the replay, it's a pretty clear call.
1:16: That was a Catherine Ward turnover that led directly to the American goal.
1:14 TEAM USA GOAL: Duggan scores from the left circle as Team USA finally gets traffic to the net, beats Szabados high glove. No chance on that one for the Canadian goaltender. 11:57 of the second.
1:13: Caroline Ouellette HAMMERED by Monique Lamoureux. Clean contact, no penalty.
1:11: We're past the midway point of the second. Canada starting to take control of this period
1:09: Even strength. Canada turned it over twice in their own zone on that power play, continuing to struggle in transition.
1:08: Vetter with a massive stop on Agosta's goalmouth chance.
1:07: Canada with the first sustained pressure of the second period. Kelli Stack takes a hooking call to put Team USA on the penalty kill.
12:59: This game will be won by the team that wins the battle down low. To this point, neither side is gaining any ground, and that means both are settling for long distance chances and leaving the rebounds to the opposing D.
12:56: Just noticed Tara Watchorn's penalty at 2:01 of the first was called Women Body-Checking. Just in case anyone was confused. Second period is underway.
12:55: Laura Fortino (8:50 TOI) and Jocelyne Larocque (8:38) paced Canada on the back end with Watchorn in the box twice. That's a heavy load. Could be an issue as this game wears on.
12:50: Katey Stone relying heavily on her top line with Knight, Decker and Stack all playing more than seven minutes in the first. Defender Gigi Marvin leads with 7:53 TOI and three shots.
12:48: From SI's Sarah Kwak in Sochi: A good, even period. Some really good chances on both sides, though I think Szabados has been the difference maker so far. She's dialed in. I think Team USA is going to kick itself a little for the squandered opportunities on the power play. They generated some great chances, but didn't convert and then cut two of them short by taking penalties.
12:43: Team Canada spending too much time on the perimeter and struggling to get into the prime scoring areas due to the strength and positioning of the American defenders.
12:42: And that's the end of the first. Team USA with the better of the play, using their speed and superior passing to control the middle of the ice. Shots 11-9 in favor of the Americans.
12:41: Bozek can't handle a pass in the defensive zone and turns over the puck. Wakefield alone in the slot, but Team USA's Vetter with the stop. Final minute of the first.
12:38: Both sides at full-strength. Just over two minutes remaining in the first. Not much happening for Canada on that PP.
12:36: Team Canada continues to be its own worst enemy. Passes going a foot or two off the mark are killing their offensive momentum.
12:34: Another Team USA power play aborted early by a penalty of their own. Kacey Bellamy to the box after being forced to tie up Irwin on a shorthanded partial break.
12:33: Steal by Alex Carpenter in the slot, but can't get a clean shot away at Szabados.
12:32: Another penalty to Watchorn of Canada. She's letting this game get away from her early. Team USA to their third power play opportunity .
12:30: Canada having trouble connecting on their passes early on. Turning the puck over too many times in the neutral zone as a result.
12:25: Wickenheiser double-clutches on a chance in the left circle, and Canada comes up empty with the extra skater. Back to full strength with just under 10 minutes to play in the first.
12:24: Jessie Vetter with a pair of monstrous saves as Canada crashes the net. Huge rebound in front of an open net sailed past the blueline and out of harm's way.
12:23: Tremendous pressure by Team USA on that PP chance. Canada couldn't get a clear or a line change until Knight throws down Hefford in the corner. Four on four for the next 13 seconds, then Canada goes to the power play.
12:21: Another undisciplined penalty to Team Canada, Mikkelson blows up Carpenter from behind at the USA blueline. Don't think this is the game Canada wants to be playing.
12:17: Back to even strength. Five shots for Team USA on the PP. Szabados looks very sharp.
12:15: Terrific glove save by Szabados on Schlepper. US with plenty of pressure through the first minute of the PP.
12:16: Team USA to the power play. Hawhorn to the box for a hard bodycheck. USA killing it on the draws early.
12:12: Team USA with their first chance. Nice pass by Kessel to Coyne, who tests Szabados with a high shot.
12:11: Right there--Canadian forward offside by two feet...took three seconds for official to whistle play dead. Uh-oh.
12:10: And we're underway in Sochi. The opening draw goes to Team USA.
12:05: Real concern ahead of this game is the quality of the officiating. Far too many instances of the stripes getting caught out of position in round-robin games.
11:54: Interesting battle setting up on special teams. Canada is 28.6 percent on the power play, Team USA is 27. 2 percent. Canada is 91 percent on the penalty kill, Team USA is 90 percent.
11:53: Shannon Szabados and Charline Labonte split Canada's previous four starts, but it will be Szabados getting the call today. She pitched a shutout in the gold medal game in 2010 and was named the tournament's top goaltender. Her big-game experience earned her the nod.
11:40: Welcome to our live coverage of today's women's gold medal showdown between longtime arch-rivals Team USA and Team Canada.
Though the result has yet to be determined, the contestants were never in doubt. Canada is the defending gold medalist after beating the Americans, 2-0, in Vancouver in 2010. Team USA are the reigning world champions, having knocked off the Canadians, 3-2, in Ottawa in 2013.
The two sides last met in the preliminary round on Feb. 12, a game Canada won 3-2.
Hilary Knight is the player to watch for Team USA. The 5'-11", 172-pound forward has three goals and five points through four games in Sochi and can dominate a game with her size and speed.
Marie-Philip Poulin could be the key for Canada. Although she has scored just one goal to this point in the tournament, Poulin came up big in the 2010 finale, tallying twice to lead Team Canada to gold.
Team USA's lines for today's game:
Knight - Stack - Carpenter
Coyne - Decker - Kessel
Duggan - J. Lamoureux - M. Lamoureux
Fry - Chu
Schleper - Bozek
Bellamy - Marvin
Picard - Pucci
There's more on the line today than just a gold medal:
Not sure you can call Harper a winner though if the prize is American beer...
PREVIEW: Breaking down the gold medal matchup
KWAK: Sochi's best rivalry resumes on golden stage
KWAK: Kessels are hockey's First Family