Gangneung (South Korea) (AFP) – Four-time defending women’s hockey champion Canada stretched their Winter Olympic win streak to 21 games on Sunday, blanking the Olympic Athletes from Russia 5-0 in their Pyeongchang Games opener.
It was Canada’s first Olympic start since edging the United States 3-2 in the 2014 final, with 2018 captain Marie-Phillip Poulin netting a last-minute equaliser and over-time gold decider in that thriller.
The world champion Americans were tested in another round-robin opener but Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Kendall Coyne netted second-period goals to rally the US women past Finland 3-1 despite 39 saves from Finnish goaltender Noora Raty.
“It was a good start for us,” said Lamoureux-Morando. “We know we are going to face some tough goalies.”
If Canada beats Finland and the Americans defeat the Russians in group play Tuesday, both North American powers would clinch semi-final berths before renewing their rivalry in a round-robin concluder Thursday.
Americans have won eight of the past 10 world titles, beating Canada in each final, but their lone Olympic crown came in 1998 at Nagano.
Flag-waving Russian supporters chanted “Russ-i-a” several times during the contest, backing a young OAR squad with only six prior Olympians.
Rebecca Johnston gave Canada a 1-0 lead 1:55 into the second period when Brianne Jenner backhanded a centering pass from behind the goal through Yekaterina Lobova’s legs and onrushing Johnston blasted the puck into the net.
Haley Irwin tipped in a Johnston slap shot from the blue line just 2:18 later for a power-play goal and Canada seized a 3-0 edge with 4:03 remaining in the period on Melodie Daoust’s backhander from the crease.
Johnston and Daoust each added third-period goals and Ann-Renee Desbiens completed a 18-save shutout for Canada.
Finland’s Venla Hovi opened the scoring with 5.8 seconds remaining in the first period to seize momentum from the Americans.
“No panic,” Coyne said of the US locker room emotions after the opening period. “We stuck with the game plan. We’ve been in this position before. It’s nothing we can’t handle. Let’s get out there and get this game.”
The Americans answered on Lamoureux-Morando smacking in a rebound to equalise 8:58 into the period. Just 2:31 later, Coyne swatted a cross-ice pass from Hilary Knight just under the crossbar for a power-play goal and 2-1 US edge.
“She put it in my wheelhouse,” Coyne said. “I put it in the back of the net.”
The Americans denied two Finland power-play chances in the third period and Dani Cameranesi’s empty-net goal with 13 seconds remaining clinched matters.
“Usually power play is our strength,” Raty said. “We can’t take so many penalties if we want to beat the US or Canada.”
Rikka Valila, 44, became Finland’s oldest Winter Olympian and the oldest Olympic women’s hockey player.