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Canada rallies, ultimately falls to USA in gold medal game

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Rebecca Johnston (right) had a big game with two goals, but the Canadians fell to Team USA in the Women's Worlds gold medal game, losing 7-5 and taking silver.
Rebecca Johnston (right) had a big game with two goals, but the Canadians fell to Team USA in the Women's Worlds gold medal game, losing 7-5 and taking silver.

In a gold medal game perhaps befitting the US/Canada rivalry, both starting goaltenders were pulled and the Canadians mounted a three-goal second period comeback, only to see it spoiled by the unstoppable Hilary Knight/Brianna Decker tandem in a 7-5 loss.

USA vs. Canada (Gold) - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship from IIHF on Vimeo.

The U.S. stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Annie Pankowski, Knight and Megan Keller. Pankowski took advantage of a mishandle by Kelly Terry, forcing a turnover, then collected a rebound off of a shot by Dana Trivigno less than three minutes into the game. Then, on a power play for the U.S., Monique Lamoureux drew Rebecca Johnston (and almost everyone else on the ice for Canada) to her, hitting a wide-open Knight for the 2-0 tally. A second power-play goal on a good follow-up to the net for Kelly put it seemingly out of reach -- the Americans were outshooting Canada 15-3 at that point, the Canadians were getting overwhelmed defensively, and nothing seemed to be clicking on offense.

Then Johnston happened, once again on the skater-advantage. Laura Fortino caught her with a perfect pass down just to the left of Jessie Vetter and Johnston shoveled one practically behind her back as Emily Pfalzer tried to fend her off. It was the first of two goals in a big game for the Inferno forward, who up to this point had been quiet with three points throughout the round-robin and semifinals. Anne Schleper fired one from the point late in the period, and just 39 seconds later, Marie-Philip Poulin took advantage of a bad turnover by Keller to make the score 4-2 in just the first period.

The second opened with a different face in net for Canada -- Genevieve Lacasse. The change seemed to give Canada new life, as she came up with a few big saves early on as the U.S. once again pressured hard. Still, the U.S. scored the first goal of the frame, as Hannah Brandt set up Haley Skarupa for a one-timer.

And then, finally, the offense arrived for Team Canada.

Brigette Lacquette blocked an attempted clear and fired a low shot from the blueline through Vetter's pads. Two and a half minutes later, Vetter played the puck right to Poulin, who caught a streaking Johnston to make it 5-4. That goal ended Vetter's night as Alex Rigsby took over -- and was promptly the victim of a redirection by Caroline Ouellette.

5-5. Wide open game. Visions of Sochi dancing in people's heads. (Okay, my head.) Both teams ended the period in most likely the same emotional states they started it in -- except the roles were dramatically reversed this time.

The third period began with a flurry of offense for Canada, all of which was stymied by Rigsby (who finished with 17 saves). As with the semis against Finland, it was going to take a mistake to decide this one -- and unfortunately for Canada, it was their mistake to make.

Courtney Birchard failed to get her stick on a pass from Kendall Coyne to Knight, which sent Knight and Decker on a 2-on-1. Knight brought Lacasse down, then slipped the puck to Decker for the tap-in and eventual game-winner. Coyne added an insurance goal under two minutes later.

The Canadians had a few chances to get within a goal; perhaps their best one came when Jocelyne Larocque ended up on a shorthanded breakaway, but she lost the puck before she could get a shot on. Four minutes later, the U.S. celebrated as World Champions once again, while the Canadians accepted silver.

Ouellette, the most veteran player on Team Canada at 35, finishes her international career with this tournament, earning top-player honors and tying Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford for most Worlds medals at 12 in the process. While Wick and Hefford have seven gold medals, however, Ouellette has a symmetrical six gold, six silver. She has tons to be proud of, but a moment like this is never easy, and even this red-blooded American can admit a little bit of disappointment for an incredible player. Along with Ouellette, Natalie Spooner and Brianne Jenner were honored as Canada's top players in the tournament, while Knight, Decker and Kacey Bellamy were named the top three for the U.S. Knight was also named tournament MVP and Best Forward.

The next Worlds is on Canadian soil, in Kamloops, B.C. (most recently home to the 2014 4 Nations Cup). There is plenty to look forward to between now and the 2016 tournament (notably a CWHL season and now, apparently, an NWHL season), but in the meantime, congratulations to Team Canada and Team USA for an incredible performance in Malmo.

Finland Wins Bronze: Michelle Karvinen led the way with a goal and two assists and Meeri Raisanen made 20 saves to give Finland the bronze medal over Russia, 4-1, ending a four-year medal drought for the Finns. Tatyana Burina was the lone goal scorer for the Russians. Jenni Hiirikoski, Minttu Tuominen and Susanna Tapani were the Finns' best players of the tournament, while Olga Sosina, Iya Gavrilova and Anna Shukina were honored for Russia.