Never a silver lining in this rivalry

Sting of Team USA’s loss to Canada will last four years

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Team Canada
Team Canada
Photo: Getty Images

Talk your shit, Natalie Spooner.

Before the gold medal game against Team USA, the two-time world champion and five-time world silver medalist from Canada didn’t pretend like the rivalry was one of mutual respect.

Spooner might have a losing record against Team USA in the biggest games (she’s now 2-1 in Olympic gold medal matches with that 2-5 mark at worlds), but Canada did make its statement, and the Americans didn’t belong on the same ice with them in a 3-2 game that wasn’t really that close, as Amanda Kessel scored with just 12.5 seconds left for Team USA’s consolation.

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It’s been clear throughout the Olympic tournament that this Canadian team was a cut above, as they’d averaged nine goals per game coming into the final. They got outshot by the Americans in round-robin play, 53-27, but still won that game, 4-2. They couldn’t stop scoring.

An offside review could, however, when Spooner banged home what appeared to be the game’s first goal on a bounce from right in front of the net. When the Americans got the incredible break of having that goal wiped out, only to have Sarah Nurse make it 1-0 Canada less than a minute later, you kind of knew what kind of night it was going to be. And there’s no shame in it, because Canada really was that good.

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Marie-Philip Poulin scored before the end of the first period, again in the middle of the second, and while Hilary Knight got Team USA on the board with a shorthanded goal before the second intermission, a failed power play in the middle of the third period pretty well ended any hope for a miraculous comeback.

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Maybe if Hannah Brandt had gotten a bouncing puck into the Canadian net for the opening goal, instead of hitting the side of the cage, it all would have gone differently.

But probably not. This didn’t have the feel of Jessie Armstead’s pick-six being called back in Super Bowl XXXV before the Ravens blew the doors off the Giants. Canada was inevitable, and has been for two weeks, including as they put on masks to dominate the Russian team, 6-1, amid a COVID scare.

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Canada didn’t leave any doubt, which is a lot more than can be said for an American team whose power play, despite an astounding amount of talent, didn’t click the whole tournament. The rivalry goes on, always, but the U.S. now has to spend four years waiting for another opportunity to prove that they do belong on the same ice as the Canadians.