Ann-Renee Desbiens thrives in shootouts.
The one-on-one showdown is right in the decorated Canadian goaltender’s wheelhouse.
After a late collapse against her country’s arch rival, she reset and stepped up in a big way.
Desbiens made a crucial save in overtime and six more in the shootout before Jamie Lee Rattray won it in the ninth round as Canada survived a blown 3-1 lead late in regulation to beat the United States 4-3 in the final preliminary round game for both teams at the women’s world hockey championship Monday.
“Never over until it’s over,” Desbiens said. “Really proud of how we reacted in overtime.
“We’ve always found different ways to win. Today was a new way.”
It certainly was.
The tournaments hosts appeared to ice things when Laura Stacey scored into an empty net with 2:27 left in regulation.
But the Americans were far from done.
Hilary Knight buried a rebound with 39 seconds remaining to get within one — the scoreboard in the arena lost power during the play, which was challenged for offside — inside a suddenly tense CAA Centre.
“When there wasn’t a clock I was like, ‘I have no idea how much time is left. Hopefully we’ve got another minute or something,”’ Knight said.
Canadian head coach Troy Ryan shared a line he’s used with some of his teams in the past to describe the bizarre situation that was followed by a long video review.
“Sometimes we’ll say, ‘If a scoreboard falls from the ceiling, we need to act like we expected it to happen,”’ he said. “You fall to the planning that you’ve done in the past. Everybody just did their job.”
But Amanda Kessel then added an improbable equalizer for the Americans with 3.4 seconds left on the clock following a chaotic scramble to further stun the crowd and force overtime.
The youthful U.S. squad killed off a penalty to Knight in the extra period before the American captain was robbed by Desbiens on a break later in OT.
That set the stage for a long shootout — Desbiens and U.S. counterpart Aerin Frankel went toe-to-toe after each allowed a goal on the first attempts — before the little-used Rattray scored the clincher on a nice deke.
“A player that’s been so valuable for us,” Ryan said. “At times she’s been our 13th forward, sometimes she’s played first-line left wing.
“Someone that always finds a way to step up big.”
The powerhouses nations now turn their attention to Thursday’s quarterfinals after finishing 1-2 atop Group A.
Sarah Fillier, with a goal and an assist, and Marie-Philip Poulin also scored in regulation for Canada.
Desbiens made 26 saves through 65 minutes of action before starring in the shootout.
“Big-game player,” Ryan said of his goaltender, who turned 29 on Monday. “She gets to celebrate a nice win.”
“Exceptional,” Fillier added. “So easy to play in front of Ann. She has so much confidence in herself, confidence in us.”
Hannah Bilka added a goal and an assist for the Americans, who got 33 stops from Frankel. Taylor Heise had two assists.
“They’re loaded,” U.S. head coach John Wroblewski said of Canada. “They’re big, they’re fast, they’re skilled. I’m super proud of our girls for holding them at bay, and then being able to take our swings.
“We’re so young. There’s got to be belief in that room that they can play with them and someday hopefully be able to beat them. Hopefully that’s Sunday when we earn our way to the gold-medal game.”
The U.S. took a 1-0 lead midway through the first on a power play when Bilka beat Desbiens by her blocker.
Canada, which is looking to claim its fourth major tournament in less than 20 months, responded four minutes later when Fillier popped home a rebound after Sarah Nurse took the puck hard to the net to even the score after 20 minutes.
Black-clad Canada went ahead on a 5-on-3 power play three minutes into the second when Poulin blasted a one-timer upstairs to set the stage for another wild chapter in an intense rivalry.
“Bit of a weird end to the game,” Fillier said. “We got into every special situation we could have. But it’s good experience for us.”
Some fans took advantage of the spring weather in this suburb west of Toronto to tailgate in the parking lot a few hours before puck drop.
The Canadians snapped the Americans’ streak of five straight world titles at the pandemic-delayed 2021 event in Calgary before securing Olympic gold at the 2022 Beijing Games.
Canada then picked up a second consecutive victory at the worlds in September in Denmark for the program’s third podium-topping performance in 12 months.
The U.S. entered 5-1 against Canada over the teams’ last six preliminary round meetings at the event, including a 5-2 victory in Denmark.
Members of the Canadian and American rosters remain bitter rivals on the ice, but tensions have cooled away from the rink as many work together as members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA), which has stated goal of starting a league in 2023-24.
This past season saw players from both countries take part in the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour — a four-team exhibition circuit that crisscrossed the continent with rosters that saw many international foes skate on the same side for the first time.
Canada and the U.S. also played a seven-game Rivalry Series that stretched from November to February as they look to continue to grow the sport on and off the ice.
“Didn’t go our way at the end,” Knight said of Monday. “But what a game for the fans.”