ADLER, Russia -- They had a two-goal lead, still led in the final minute of regulation and would have won right then had their shot from the opposite blue line gone into an empty net instead of hitting the post.
But the U.S. women's hockey players seem tortured that way, especially when it comes to playing Team Canada.
The Canadians forced overtime by scoring twice in the final four minutes -- the tying goal coming with 54.6 seconds remaining in the third period -- and then won, 3-2, on a power-play goal by Marie-Philip Poulin, 8:10 into overtime on Thursday.
Poulin, who particularly has a history of torturing the U.S., also scored the goal that sent the game into overtime. Her nickname: "American Destroyer."
"I don't know what to say," Poulin said. "It's so surreal and a dream come true again."
The U.S. won the inaugural women's hockey gold medal in 1998 by defeating Canada. The Canadians now have won the past four, also over the U.S. in 2002 and 2010 and over Sweden in 2006.
In the most recent Olympics in Vancouver, the Canadians beat the Americans, 2-0, in the final. Poulin scored both goals in that game, meaning she has now scored the gold medal game-winner in consecutive Olympics.
"It's the worst feeling in the world, but maybe it wasn't meant to be," U.S. forward Kelli Stack said. "We worked so hard and got so close."
It was Stack who hit the post when firing for the open net after Canada had pulled its goalie late in regulation.
"An inch to the right and we would have won the gold medal," she said. "An empty-net goal would have been a game-winning goal."
Said Canada's Brianne Jenner: "I don't know. Maybe it was the hockey gods."
In the four years since their loss in Vancouver, several of the U.S. players said avenging the defeat was their primary motivation. Eleven players on this team also competed in the 2010 Games. They were within a minute and an inch of reversing their fortune this time.
And the Americans entered these Games in great position to finally topple Team Canada, having won four straight lead-in games before arriving in Sochi.
"We relaxed defensively a little bit and let in two soft goals," U.S. forward Alex Carpenter said. "It's so hard to explain."
Canada did beat the U.S., 3-2, in a first-round game here. Both teams cruised through the remainder of the tournament to set up the final everyone had anticipated all along.
Goals by Meghan Duggan and Carpenter had the Americans up, 2-0, early in the third period. That's the way it stayed until Jenner scored at the 16:34 mark.
Then in overtime, the Americans were on the power play until Jocelyne Lamoureux and Hilary Knight took consecutive penalties 16 seconds apart, giving Canada a four-on-three advantage.
Both calls were disputed on the ice and afterward U.S. coach Katey Stone was asked about the officiating and refused to comment.
Poulin's winner came 39 second into the power play.
"There are no words to take away the sting," Stone said. "This is a very difficult night. There really isn't much to say."
The victory was Canada's 20th in a row in Olympic play. The only women's team that has won more than four consecutive gold medals in Olympic play is the U.S. women's basketball team from 1996-2012.
"Certainly, that was a special night," Team Canada coach Kevin Dineen said. "I'm so proud of our players and they should be proud them themselves. That was a great hockey game."
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