by Ralph Routon
If you had told U.S. hockey people the Olympic women's gold-medal game would be a battle of goaltenders, they would have felt good about America's chances with Jessie Vetter in the nets.
But Canada goaltender Shannon Szabados ruled Thursday afternoon, making 28 saves as the Canadians won their third straight women's hockey gold with a 2-0 victory over the United States.
Marie-Philip Poulin scored two goals late in the first period, and Szabados thwarted the Americans on two 5-on-3 advantages, to make the difference through two periods.
The U.S. simple never was able to get rebounds for second chances at Svabados, despite numerous blistering shots from Monique Lamoureux, Angela Ruggiero and others. Vetter was just as invincible in the last two periods, but not in the first.
Poulin scored after 13:55 of play, beating Vetter from the left circle inside the right post, to put the host nation on top, delighting most of the 19,000-plus inside Canada Hockey Place. Then, less than three minutes later, Poulin struck again at the 16:50 mark during a 4-on-4 situation to make it 2-0.
The goals came after a lengthy U.S. power play, including a 5-on-3 advantage for 40 seconds, as the Americans bombarded Szabados with a handful of tough shots from close range. But she saved them all, and the roaring crowd inspired the ensuing rush that led to Poulin's goal.
The second 5-on-3 lasted 1:38, but the Canadians packed their defense in front of Szabados and the U.S. couldn't crack through it, which turned out to be the story of the night.