Sochi, Russia • They were shut out in one gold medal game, blindsided by the Swedes in a semifinal and watched a 35-game winning streak swirl down the drain at the Olympics.
U.S. female hockey players have endured incredible heartbreak when the stakes were highest — but this? Blowing a two-goal lead Thursday with less than four minutes to go until the medal ceremony?
It might take 16 more years for the program to recover.
This was a comeback — and meltdown — for the ages.
"It’s really hard to swallow right now, a tough one for sure," said U.S. forward Jocelyn Lamoureux. "It sucks."
Lamoureux was in the penalty box after being whistled off for slashing, banished for trying to whack a loose puck from Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados’ pads. Asked whether British referee Joy Tottman made a bad call, Lamoureux demurred — somewhat.
"I don’t want to say that myself, but I would agree with that, especially when [Szabados] didn’t have it," Lamoureux said. "It was between her knees."
It was a game filled with bench gripes from both sides and several huddles among officials. Asked about the officiating, U.S. coach Katey Stone offered a stiff, "No comment."
Regardless, Team USA had plenty for which to answer after settling for silver medals for the third time in four Winter Games.
The Americans held a 2-0 lead on goals by Meghan Duggan midway through the second period and Alex Carpenter at 2:01 of third. Afterward, they steadily made the safe plays, carefully working pucks out of danger and dumping them back into Canada’s zone to protect what should have been a commanding lead.
However, Brianne Jenner sparked Canada’s revival when her shot ricocheted off a leg past U.S. netminder Jessie Vetter with 3:26 remaining.
The crowd of 10,639 at Bolshoy Ice Dome, which had been equally supportive of both teams, suddenly erupted and adopted the Canadians, likely rooting as much for a tying goal and extended play.
Poulin gave them what they wanted.
With Szabados pulled for the extra attacker, Poulin pounced on a loose puck at the top of the crease and banged it into a wide-open net with 54.6 seconds remaining, touching off an even wilder celebration.
Moments earlier, U.S. forward Kelli Stack had almost iced it for the U.S. Her clearing shot around a linesman near the U.S. blue line tumbled 150 feet down the ice toward Canada’s empty net only to clank harmlessly off the right goal post with 1:24 remaining.
"Yeah, unlucky," said Lamoureux. "They played really desperate. Couple big bounces helped them. It was a tough one."
Stunned heading to overtime, Team USA managed to recover during the intermission and came out flying 4-on-4, using its speed to create several scoring chances.
But Szabados, whose 2-0 shutout four years ago in Vancouver vanquished the Americans, withstood the early barrage, making a snazzy glove save on defenseman Gigi Marvin to set the stage for Poulin’s heroics.
Poulin crashed the net and finished a fine three-way passing play with veteran Hayley Wickenheiser and Laura Fortino.
"It was a great play by Wick and Fortino," Poulin said. "They gave it to me right on the tape and I tried to shoot it right away."
In 2006 unheralded Sweden shocked Team USA with a 3-2 shootout victory in Turin, Italy. Four years earlier in Salt Lake City, the United States ran its winning streak to 35 games, including a 9-0 run against Canada, into the gold medal game, which the Canadians swiped in another one-goal thriller.Next Page >
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