The Americans, known for their fast starts, had at one point built up more than a three-second lead in the six-lap, 2,400-metre race. But the Canadians ate into that lead quickly over the final two laps, and were only half a second behind after a breathless push for the finish line.
The Americans seemed to stumble and nearly wiped out headed into the final turn, but it wasn't enough to give the Canadians a window. Canada ended up crossing the line in two minutes, 59.72 seconds, good enough for fourth place.
Since taking the silver in Torino in 2006, Canada has now failed to medal in the event at three straight Games.
Gold went to Japan with an Olympic record time of 2:53.89, while the powerhouse Dutch team settled for the silver.