Canada beat rivals the United States 3-2 to win women's Olympic ice hockey gold on Thursday, avenging an emotional loss in the final four years ago and capping a dominant run in Beijing.

Canada led 3-0 in the second period and held on to win, despite being out-shot in the game 40-21, to collect the country's fifth Olympic gold.

No other country has won women's ice hockey gold in the seven Olympic Games since the event debuted in Nagano in 1998. Canada have won five of those and the USA two.

"It's just so good. It's a great feeling," said Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored twice in the game.

"It was one hell of an effort. This is redemption."

The United States came in ranked number in the world, but once play got under way in Beijing a Canadian victory began to seem like a foregone conclusion.

Canada beat old rivals the US for gold
Canada beat old rivals the US for gold AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE

The Canadian women blitzed the competition, finishing 7-0, including an earlier 4-2 win over the Americans.

Canada outscored their opponents 57-10 throughout the tournament and Canadian players occupied the top six spots on the Beijing points leaderboard.

"It is insane. I can't stop shaking. It's a dream come true," said forward Sarah Fillier.

Canada pounced early with first-period goals by Sarah Nurse and Poulin, the two top points leaders in Beijing.

Poulin made it 3-0 in the second period, but Hilary Knight gave the Americans a glimmer of hope by scoring a breakaway goal despite the US being shorthanded due to a penalty.

The US added a final goal in the dying seconds, followed by jubilant Canadian celebrations at the buzzer.