Canada beats rival U.S. to reclaim Olympic women's hockey supremacy
Captain Marie-Philip Poulin scores twice as Canadians win 1st gold medal since 2014
Canada waited four long years for Olympic women's hockey redemption.
In 2019, it failed to even reach the final of the world championship. That's when the countdown began — literally.
General manager Gina Kingsbury gave each team member a clock displaying the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the 2022 Olympics.
Now, after the clocks hit zero, there's Olympic gold medals around Canadian necks once more after beating the U.S. 3-2 on Thursday in Beijing to claim their first title since 2014.
Captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice — including her third career Olympic game-winning goal — while Sarah Nurse's goal and assist pushed her past Canadian great Hayley Wickenheiser for most points in a single tournament with 18.
WATCH | Highlights from Canada's 3-2 win:
It was quite the journey even since the clocks were distributed. Canada won its first worlds since 2010 in August. Last October, it centralized with a group of 29 players in Calgary to prepare for six months for the Beijing Olympics. In January, that centralization became a bubble following a COVID-19 breakout.
"We were looking at that clock all the time," forward Natalie Spooner said. "We had it in our houses, and even through COVID we obviously weren't able to be together for a lot of that time.
"So we had that clock there to make sure we did our own work on those off days to make sure we were ready when we came back as a team."
All that work paid off in Beijing.
WATCH | Olympic champions sing 'O Canada':
In her second Games, Nurse can finally call herself an Olympic champion.
"Coming off of 2018 and having that silver medal, it felt like the weight of the world on our shoulders. And having this gold, it's gonna feel as light as ever," Nurse said.
Canada suffered a shocking shootout loss to the U.S. in the 2018 final, ending a run of four consecutive gold medals and sending the Canadians home without gold for the first time since 1998.
That's where the drive to Beijing began, the sting of that defeat never quite going away until it was rectified on women's hockey's biggest stage.
"It's just so good. It's a great feeling. It was one hell of an effort. This is redemption," Poulin said.
WATCH | Poulin pots a pair to lead Canada past U.S. for gold:
Poulin — known quite accurately as Captain Clutch — now has seven goals across four Olympic finals. She scored both goals in a 2-0 win over the U.S. in 2010, netted the late equalizer and golden overtime marker in 2014 and even tallied once in the 2018 loss.
In case there were doubts about her poise, she also sniped the OT winner at worlds last August and added two more in Canada's pre-Games exhibition series against the Americans.
The 30-year-old from Beauceville, Que., is the first hockey player to ever score in four separate Olympic gold-medal games.
Earlier Thursday, Finland beat Switzerland 4-0 to claim bronze.
Canada roared through these Olympics, paving a warpath to the top of the podium. It won all seven games in Beijing, outscoring opponents 57-10 along the way, including two victories over the Americans. Those 57 tournament goals surpassed the 44 of their 2010 predecessors as the most ever.
The Canadians' unrelenting offence carried them — with an assist from goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens, who made 38 saves in Thursday's final.
Brianne Jenner, who was named tournament MVP, tied the Olympic goals record with nine. Poulin wound up with 17 points to match Wickenheiser, while Claire Thompson's three goals and 10 assists was a tournament-high in points by a defender.
Olympic rookie Sarah Fillier was second among all players with eight tallies of her own.
The 21-year-old had tears in her eyes as she soaked in the win.
"It's insane. I can't stop shaking. I just stopped crying. This is like a dream come true and it's been a really long four years and to do it with the girls on that team, there's nothing more special than that," she told CBC's Kenzie Lalonde.
Poulin credited a team effort for the victory.
"These girls out there. These girls," she told Lalonde. "We celebrate each other's success, we want to succeed and to be honest it just showed tonight. From line to line, people were dialled in. We did it and we're very happy."
Nurse called it a "dream come true."
"I don't have words right now," she said. "That was the longest game of hockey I've ever played and waking up this morning we knew that we were going to finish this game with a gold medal if we just stuck to our plan, stuck to our process."
The Canadians were seemingly in control from the start, thanks in part to Nurse.
WATCH | Nurse gives Canada early lead:
The Hamilton, Ont., native opened the scoring in the first period, deflecting a point shot from defender Claire Thompson past American netminder Alex Cavallini, who made 18 saves.
The goal came just moments after it appeared Canada had already gone ahead on a rebound goal by Spooner. However, a coach's challenge from the U.S. revealed it was offside.
"It was funny. Nursey came up to me on the bench and said, 'I owe you one, I was offside', and then she goes out and scores. I was like, 'Thanks, you got it back for us,'" Spooner said.
Poulin extended the Canadian lead when she pickpocketed an American player in the offensive zone before sneaking a slot shot into the back of the net to send her team into the first break up 2-0.
She added her second midway through the second period when she capitalized on a rebound following a rush led by Nurse.
The Americans cut the deficit to two when Hilary Knight scored a short-handed goal late in the second.
"I don't think we played up to our potential," Knight said. "I really like our team and we love each other and are willing to go through a wall for each other. At the end of the day, I am proud of our effort."
Canada then went into protection mode in the third period, relying on Desbiens, who counted 15 of her stops in the final frame.
Amanda Kessel brought the Americans within one on a scramble with just 12.5 seconds remaining, but it was too little, too late.
Poulin won the ensuing centre-ice faceoff by knocking the puck deep into the American zone, killing most of the remaining clock.
And for the first time in eight years, Canada won women's hockey gold.
Poulin may have credited the team as a whole, but Desbiens credited Poulin.
"I don't know of a more deserving captain to win that gold medal for us."
WATCH | Full replay of gold-medal game: