SOCHI, Russia — The puck trickled under Jesse Vetter’s pads and over the goal line, and then the whistle blew.
Or was it the other way around?
The Canadian women’s hockey team beat the United States 3-2 on Wednesday in a tense preview of the expected gold medal match, taking the lead on Hayley Wickenheiser’s controversial third-period goal. Meghan Agosta scored in the second period to tie the game 1-1, and then Canada added the go-ahead goal 93 seconds later on a shot that U.S. goalie Jesse Vetter seemed to have stopped, drawing a whistle from referee Anna Eskola of Finland.
But the puck slid through Vetter’s pads and over the goal line. A video — and presumably audio — review confirmed the puck went into the net before the whistle.
“You celebrate when you see the puck cross the line,” said Wickenheiser, who is participating in her fifth Winter Games. “It doesn’t matter how.”
But Vetter said she thought the whistle had blown before the puck came loose. American coach Katey Stone was even more sure of it.
“I did hear a whistle blow before the puck went in,” she said. “But, more importantly, I said to our players, ‘Regardless of what happens, let’s be ready.”’
The Americans allowed Meghan Agosta to break into the zone by herself and beat Vetter with just over five minutes remaining — the second goal of the game for the MVP of the 2010 Olympics — giving Canada a 3-1 lead. The U.S. pulled the goalie and cut the deficit to one on Anne Schleper’s goal with 65 seconds left, but even with a power play that gave them a 6-on-4 advantage they couldn’t tie it.
It was the Canadians’ third consecutive Olympic victory over the U.S., including the gold medal games in Vancouver and Salt Lake. But it was their first victory over the Americans for coach Kevin Dineen, who took over the team in December after a career in which he played for Hartford and Columbus and saw rivalries like the Red Sox and Yankees and Michigan-Ohio State up close.