Team USA settles for silver

Canada tops U.S., 2-0, to capture gold medal

It is one of the top rivalries in sports. Like a pair of teenage sisters, the women's hockey teams from the United States and Canada fight over everything — Olympic gold medals, world championship titles, even meaningless exhibition games played during off years.

They are the world's two best teams and it has been that way since women's hockey was named an official Olympic sport in 1998. But the gap between the two continues to grow. On Thursday evening, the Canadians earned their third consecutive gold medal, dispatching the Americans in front of a raucous sellout home crowd at Canada Hockey Place, 2-0.

Marie-Philip Poulin, an 18-year-old forward, scored a pair of goals in the first period and that lead held up through the entire game thanks to Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados, who finished with 28 saves for the shutout.

The United States fired 28 shots her way. But it couldn't take advantage of 49 seconds of 5-on-3 play in the first period or another 1:37 of 5-on-3 in the second period. Those power plays were the best sustained chances against Szabados. Otherwise, Canada controlled the game and kept the Americans at bay. There were no power plays awarded in the third period and neither team scored — though both had golden opportunities. The Canadians finished with 29 shots, 27 of them stopped by United States goalie Jessie Vetter.

Jennifer Botterill and leading scorer Meghan Agosta assisted on both goals by Poulin, who finished with a team-high four shots. The Canadians were whistled for six penalties while the United States took five. Neither of Poulin's goals came with the man advantage. The Americans continually tried to pull Vetter late in the game down a pair of goals, but were thwarted time and again. She finally escaped the net with less than a minute remaining, but by then it was too little, too late.

Canada beat Sweden for the gold medal in 2006 in Torino and did the same to the United States in Salt Lake City in 2002. The Americans, who won gold in Nagano in 1998, were shocked by Sweden in the semifinals in 2006 and settled for bronze. They have lost eight of their last 11 games played against Canada.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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