Canada takes down U.S., reclaims women’s Olympic hockey gold

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Just about every true hockey fan predicted the United States and Canada would meet in the women’s hockey gold medal game again at the 2022 Winter Olympics. As fate would have it, that’s exactly what happened. The two fierce rivals faced off for the title for the sixth time in the last seven Olympics late Wednesday night, and after falling to the U.S. in the gold medal game in PyeongChang, the Canadians reclaimed the gold this time around with a 3-2 victory against the Americans.

Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin was a force throughout the final. She netted two goals and added an assist in the tilt, giving her 17 points through seven contests at the Winter Games. Poulin is the top women’s hockey player in the world, and she played like it against the Americans.

With her pair of goals, Poulin became the first player in Olympic history, male or female, to score in four gold medal games.

“It was a group effort,” she said after the game. “It was line after line, put pressure (on), and we put it in when it was the right time.”

The Canadians came out fast and furious to start the tilt. Natalie Spooner appeared to net the game’s first goal early in the opening frame, but the marker was taken off the board after a review deemed the goal was offside. However, Sarah Nurse broke the ice just seconds after the disallowed goal with a redirection of a Claire Thompson point shot off the draw. With her tally, Nurse set the all-time record for points in a single Olympic tournament with 18 (five goals, 13 assists).

“That was the longest game of hockey I’ve ever played,” said Nurse, who is now the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey. “Waking up this morning, we knew that we were gonna finish this game with a gold medal. We just stuck to our plan, stuck to our process.”

“This is a dream come true.”

Poulin doubled her squad’s lead with her first marker not long after Nurse opened the scoring, capitalizing on a U.S. defensive-zone turnover and beating American goaltender Alex Cavallini, who appeared to have lost track of the puck. She later netted her second goal of the game in the middle period after burying a juicy rebound off the pad of Cavallini, putting the U.S. in a 3-0 hole.

The Americans finally scored their first goal of the game late in the second period when Hilary Knight (who else?) slid a rebound past Canadian netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens on a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush. Knight’s tally briefly swung momentum in the U.S.’s favor, but the temporary shot of adrenaline wasn’t enough to narrow the gap.

Amanda Kessel got the U.S. within one goal of Canada with a garbage-time tally on a 6-on-4 advantage in the game’s waning seconds, but at that point it was too little too late. The Canadians drained the last 12 seconds of the game with ease, and the celebration soon followed.

Despite Kessel’s marker on the advantage, the U.S. power play was downright dreadful in the title game and, frankly, throughout the entire tournament. The Americans managed just seven power-play tallies on 29 opportunities at the Games — an abysmal output with the amount of talent on the U.S. roster. The loss of Brianna Decker in the tournament opener certainly didn’t do the power play any favors.

The U.S. came up short in more areas than just the power play, though. They also missed several quality scoring chances that could have greatly influenced the contest’s outcome. Just after the game’s two-minute mark, Hannah Brandt missed a wide-open net that would have given the U.S. an early lead. Early in the third period, Alex Carpenter hit the post with Desbiens in complete disarray as chaos erupted all around her.

The Americans ended up outshooting Canada 40-21 in the contest, but without converting on their scoring opportunities, the shot differential was inconsequential.

“I don’t think we played up to our potential so that’s sort of the bittersweet part of it,” said Knight. “We’re a great team, but at the end of the day the score didn’t show that. Hopefully you take this and you stay hungry and for some of the younger kids in that room, come back with a vengeance or a chip on their shoulder to do better and to do more.”

“I love this group entirely and it’s always a special moment when you can represent your country on a world stage.”

With the victory, the Canadians now have five of the seven gold medals awarded for women’s hockey at the Olympics.

Canada is back on top of the women’s hockey world, and the U.S. is going back to the drawing board as veterans Knight, Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield consider their Olympic futures.

For Knight, who’s 32, it’s a bit too early to start thinking about 2026.

“I don’t know,” she said when asked if she’ll be back for Milano Cortina. “The level of dedication that you have to have in this program and this team is — every single decision you make, it’s a lot. It’s not something I can commit to right now.”

“I like to win, so we’ll see.”

Click here to view all the stats from Canada’s win over the United States, and click here to watch the full event replay from start to finish.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.