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It could have been no call. (Knight denied making any contact at all. And, when asked about the officiating, U.S. coach Katey Stone issued only a terse, “No comment.”)

But Knight was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking. With the 4-on-3 advantage, the Canadians worked the puck around and over to Poulin, who knocked it into the open net and set off the celebration on the bench and among the Maple Leaf-waving fans.

“Unfortunately, when you let other factors come in, it can bounce either way. That’s what happened today,” Knight said. “It’s heartbreaking, and you go four years, and you think you’ve got the game in the bag, and something happens. It’s unfortunate, but this group has represented our country at an outstanding level. So can’t really be too heartbroken about it.”

Switzerland beat Sweden earlier Thursday for the bronze medal at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, where the women moved after playing the preliminaries at the smaller Shayba Arena next door. Switzerland goalie Florence Schelling, who led the tournament with 253 saves in six games, was named Most Valuable Player.

The 10,639 fans at the final included the Canadian men’s team that completed a sweep the hockey gold medals in Vancouver four years ago. The Canadian women also beat their southern neighbors three times in a pre-Olympic tour this fall before coach Dan Church quit unexpectedly in December and the Americans won four straight times heading into the Olympics.

Then, in a rare round-robin matchup between the sports’ two top powers, the Canadians won 3-2. They extended their Olympic winning streak over the U.S. to four consecutive games.

“For us, it’s just a great feeling,” said coach Kevin Dineen, who replaced Church. “And for me, it’s even more special because it’s the first one.”

Less than 24 hours before the Canadians and Americans were to meet in the same rink in the men’s semifinals, fans wearing Maple Leaf sweaters and Stars and Stripe scarves tried to outshout each other — with a healthy number of locals chanting “Ro-ssi-ya!” for their long-departed hockey teams.

The pro-Canada crowd grew louder after the first goal, but the second one quieted them until the flurry at the end of regulation.

The hard-hitting first period featured five penalties and no goals. It was still scoreless when Duggan took a drop pass from Lamoureux at the left circle and wristed the puck into the top corner of the net past a screened Szabados.

The U.S. scored on a power play early in the third when Tara Watchorn was sent off for the third time in the game and, with just seconds left in the tripping penalty, Hilary Knight threaded a pass through Canadian defenseman Laura Fortino’s legs to Carpenter at the far side of the crease.

She deflected it past Szabados and off the post to make it 2-0.