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 1:33 later on a shot that Vetter appeared to have stopped, drawing a whistle from the referee, Anna Eskola of Poland.
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 1:05 left, but even with a power play that gave them a six-on-four 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, former coach of the Portland Pirates.
MEN’S HOCKEY: Erik Karlsson scored two goals in the Swedes’ 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic, and Simon Moser scored with 7.9 seconds left in Switzerland’s 1-0 victory over Latvia in the opening games of the Sochi tournament.
FIGURE SKATING: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won the gold medal in pairs figure skating as Russia took the top two spots to reclaim its dominance in the sport.
LUGE: Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt won Germany’s third gold medal in luge, denying Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger a record third straight title.
Known as “the two Tobis,” Wendl and Arlt completed their two runs down the Sanki Sliding Center track in 1 minute, 38.933 seconds. Their win followed dominating performances by Germany’s Felix Loch in men’s singles and Natalie Geisenberger’s in women’s.
The Lingers won silver, and Latvia’s Andris and Juris Sics took bronze after winning silver in Vancouver.
SPEEDSKATING: Stefan Groothuis gave the Netherlands another gold medal in speedskating, upsetting two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis in the 1,000 meters.
Groothuis posted a time of 1 minute, 8.39 seconds at Adler Arena, earning the fourth gold medal in five speedskating events for the Dutch at these Winter Games.
For good measure, 500 champion Michel Mulder took the bronze, giving the Netherlands 10 out of a possible 15 medals overall through the first five events.
Canada’s Denny Morrison took the silver in 1:08.43.
Davis was attempting to become the first man to win the same speedskating event at three straight Olympics. He finished eighth in 1:09.12.
SKI JUMPING: Eric Frenzel of Germany led after ski jumping and then powered home on the cross-country course to win the gold medal in the Nordic combined individual normal hill.
SKIING: In a rare tie in Alpine skiing, Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland both won Olympic gold in the women’s downhill.
The pair sped down the Rosa Khutor course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. Lara Gut of Switzerland was 0.10 behind in third.
Curling: After the U.S. men’s and women’s team got off to a combined 0-5 start, the men picked up their first win of the tournament, beating Denmark, 9-5.
The women lost to China, 7-4. The U.S. will likely have to win out to advance to the next round.