Canada celebrates Poulin's golden goal (Julio Cortez, AP)
Right on time, Marie-Philip Poulin showed up to save Canada's bacon.
The breakout star in Vancouver was a saviour in the women's hockey gold-medal game, scoring with 55 seconds left to force overtime just moments after a Team USA shot at Team Canada's empty net hit the post. Hobbled by a high ankle sprain that benched her for all but the team's last two games before leaving for Sochi, and held to just one tally through Team Canada's first four games at the Sochi Olympics, Poulin corralled Rebecca Johnston's centering pass, feinted and flipped the puck over Jessie Vetter's right pad.
[Watch the game-tying goal]
And that was merely an appetizer for a breathless overtime session that was probably inevitable for the North American titans, who also needed extra time at the worlds two years ago. Following some more bacon-saving stops from Shannon Szabados, the teams were playing 3-on-3 when a U.S. giveaway led to Hilary Knight hauling down Hayley Wickenheiser on a breakaway. On the enusing power play, Poulin wired a shot in to cap an improbable 3-2 comeback victory in perhaps the tensest women's hockey game ever played.
The goal gave Canada its country's fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal and completed a remarkable turnaround for a team that had a coaching shake-up exactly 10 weeks ago. Wickenheiser, captain Caroline Ouellette and Jayna Hefford became the first hockey players to win four consecutive golds.
"It's our conditioning and our heart," wing Brianne Jenner, who scored the first goal of the comeback, said to CBC. "Kudos to them, they're a great team ... Kevin [Dineen] kept an even keel."
Team USA had an apparently firm grip on the game through 56 minutes, leading 2-0 by virtue of a second-period screen-shot goal by captain Meghan Duggan and a power-play tap-in tally by Alex Carpenter 2:01 into the third. Coach Kevin Dineen, who stepped behind the bench after Dan Church resigned in December, began line-juggling and shortening his bench. With 3:26 left, defender Meaghan Mikkelson, playing with a broken right hand, head-manned the puck to Jenner, who cut into the slot and picked a top corner over Vetter.
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