Winter Olympics hockey, USA vs. Canada: USA women fall 3-2 to Canada

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Americans were unable to weather the storm in the third period and fell, 3-2, to Canada on Wednesday.

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Team Canada used a dominant third period to overcome 1-0 deficit, beating the USA 3-2 in the final game of group play for women's hockey on Wednesday.

It was meaningless game in the context of the tournament itself, with both the USA and Canada already securing their spots in playoff round, yet it was clear neither team was taking the contest lightly. The first period opened up with physical play on both ends of the ice, with the USA getting two power play chances in an opening frame that saw Canada mostly control play despite being outshot 11-8 on the scoreboard.

The scoreless tie would continue late into the second period, due to the strong play by Canadian goalie Charline Labonte and USA goaltender Jessie Vetter. Canada continued to control play and it was only thanks to the play of Vetter in net that the game remained scoreless through the middle frame, who stopped several odd-man rushes and afforded her team the opportunity to use their speed and crisp passes to counter with chances of their own.

The USA would finally break through late in the second period, when forward Hilary Knight tipped a shot from distance over Labonte's shoulder to give the Americans a 1-0 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the frame. The goal would give the USA the momentum and confidence, yet Labonte stood tall under a late-period barrage.

It would take Canada just two minutes to break past Vetter, however, as Meghan Agosta buried a brilliant pass by Hayley Wickenheiser on the power play to tie the game 1-1. Canada would then take the lead on a controversial goal, when Wickenheiser slipped a puck under Vetter and into the goal only after the official's whistle had apparently blown the play dead.

The Canadians would seize all of the momentum after taking the lead, putting the USA back on their heels with a swarming offense that took all of the counterpunch away from the Americans. Team USA struggled just to get another shot on goal, until Agosta seemingly put the game away with a breakaway goal with just over five minutes remaining in regulation to give Canada a 3-1 lead.

The USA would fight back in the final minutes, with Anne Schleper getting a puck past Labonte from distance to cut the lead to 3-2. Canada was caught with too many players on the ice, yet USA could not take advantage of the late power play to tie the game late.

Team USA and Canada now head to separate brackets in the playoff rounds, and won't face each other again until the medal round. Despite four straight wins by the Americans heading into the tournament, an impressively dominant third period for Canada has put this rivalry back on even terms heading into what almost assuredly will be another Gold Medal game between the top two women's teams in the world.

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