By Frank Pingue
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The Canadian women's ice hockey team who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday were living by the famous saying that you need to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good.
With time seemingly winding down on their 12-year reign as Olympic champions, Canada got a fortuitous bounce and some help from a goalpost en route to a stunning 3-2 overtime win against the United States in the gold medal game.
Trailing 2-0 with less than four minutes to play, Canada's Brianne Jenner knocked a shot off a U.S. defender's knee and into the net to pull within one.
The Americans almost sealed the win when Kelli Stack sent a clearing shot down the length of the ice that hit the post of a Canadian net left empty in favor of an extra attacker. Canada went on to tie the game with 55 seconds left in regulation.
"I don't know, maybe it was the hockey gods." said Jenner. "It is an amazing feeling to win the way we did, and it shows our character."
The wild sequence of events forced overtime, which Canada went on to win with Marie-Philip Poulin's goal eight minutes into the sudden-death period.
As the game-winning puck trickled down the length of the ice, the Canadian supporters trying to will it in and the American fans pleading with it to go wide, Canada forward Hayley Wickenheiser said she was as cool as could be.
"I didn't think it was going to go in," said Wickenheiser, who has won four Olympic ice hockey gold medals. "It didn't seem to be the right angle, despite which there was a lot of snow on the ice."
While luck played a role in helping Canada claim their fourth consecutive Olympic women's ice hockey gold medal, the team never lost hope despite being kept out by American goalie Jessie Vetter for the game's first 56 minutes.
The win was a testament to the Canadian team's commitment to each other and an intense program that sees many of the women leave their jobs to spend months together for training.
"We worked hard for this but we never expected to leave it this late," said Poulin, whose first goal of the night tied the game in the final minute of the third period.
"It was tough for sure. With five minutes to go we were down by two. It was hard but we never gave up. From the coaching point, they trusted us and we trusted them. We went there as a team and won as team."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Ken Ferris)