Overtime periods are extra periods that occur after the third regulation period of a game in which normal hockey rules apply. Although full-length overtime periods were once played, today's overtimes are golden goal (a type of sudden death), which means that the game finishes instantly when a player scores a goal. The only way to end an overtime game is through a shootout or a penalty kick.
There is no set time limit for overtime periods; they can last as long as necessary to determine a winner. However, the general rule is that if there is still a tie after five minutes, the referee will blow the whistle and award the victory to the team that was ranked first at the beginning of the period. But if there is still a tie after 10 minutes, the referee will again blow the whistle and award the victory to the team that was ranked highest at the beginning of the period. This procedure may be repeated up to three times before declaring one team the winner and ending the game.
In fact, the maximum length of an overtime period is 12 minutes. If the score remains tied after this time, the game will go on indefinitely until someone wins. An overtime period cannot be started by either team unless the ball is in the neutral zone. If a team attempts to start an overtime period while the other team has the ball, the attempt is considered a foul and the opposing team gets a free shot at goal.
The only way to continue playing is if both teams score during their respective timeouts.
In hockey's early years, before the advent of the shoot-out, games often went into several overtimes before being settled by a penalty shot or a coin toss. In this case, the first team to score wins the game.
Overtime in hockey is different from other sports because there are no rules regarding how long a game has to be delayed while the two teams fight for victory. A game can last anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour.
During World War II, when ice facilities were closed to military training due to the shortage of players, major league games were played with all players wearing masks to protect themselves from injury and illness. This prevented any real fighting but rather than have no game at all, some owners decided to just let them play out the period without penalties or goals. This is why you see many games that appear to be finished in those days have no clock timing their length. When the war was over, the practice stopped and now every game has a timed period.
The extra time is barely five minutes long. It passes swiftly. If a player scores during that time period, the game is automatically ended. In hockey, this is known as "sudden death." The winner is determined by who scores first.
In sports terminology, sudden death means that if a team doesn't score during a specified period of time, then the opposing team wins without having to go through the normal end-of-game procedures. If a basketball game is tied at the end of regulation time, for example, there will be another round of play called "sudden death" because there is no further possibility of scoring. The phrase is also used in American football when either team can win in sudden death situations: if the ball is still alive at the end of the game, it goes to the next play; if not, the winning team's quarterback must have the ball ready to throw on the next play.
In ice hockey, sudden death rules apply when the game is tied after three periods or when the score is tied after four consecutive games. If the score is still tied after six minutes of overtime, an icing (a delay of game) occurs. The losing team may now take any number of penalties, which are two minutes each, during which they cannot change players.
Extra periods in the Stanley Cup playoffs and all tiebreaker games are played like normal periods—teams are at full strength (five skaters, barring penalties), there is no shootout, and each overtime session is 20 minutes long with complete intermissions in between. If the score is tied after two periods of overtime, another period will be played immediately following the end of the second one. If the scores remain tied, then another 20-minute period will be played. This will continue until one team builds a lead big enough to survive a potential comeback by the opponent.
The first penalty shot of an overtime period is chosen at random from among the players who remained on the ice during the five-minute major penalty. If both teams choose their shooters, they can select any player they wish; otherwise, the rules allow for selection by lottery. The shooter takes his spot near the top of the circle and waits for the puck to be dropped. He can do nothing else while the clock is running; he cannot skate or pass the ball, and when the horn sounds, he must shoot the puck (no deflecting or icing). If he scores, the game continues; if not, the opposing team gets a chance to respond with a power play of their own.
If the score remains tied after three periods of overtime, then another period will be played immediately following the end of the third one.
In the NHL, how does overtime work? If a game is tied after 60 minutes of regulation play during the regular season, an overtime session of 5 minutes will be added. If a player scores during this time, the game is ended and his team is declared the winner. If not, the game continues until one team manages to score a goal.
Overtime has been used in the NHL since it began in 1917. The format has changed over time, but currently, if no goals are scored during five minutes of sudden death, the referee will signal for full ice again, and then play will resume with a face-off at center ice. If there is still no outcome by the end of two minutes of sudden death, the game enters a third period called "shootout" where each player in turn may shoot the puck once. The first player to score wins the game.
The shootout was introduced in 2003 by former Montreal Canadiens captain Yvon Labre as a way to resolve games that were still tied after 60 minutes of play. Since its introduction, the shootout has become a popular feature of playoff games, especially when teams are competing for a spot in the next round.
During the regular season, the NHL's extra session is five minutes of sudden death hockey. That implies that whichever team scores first wins. Although the ice surface is cleaned before overtime, there is no genuine interval. It's a continuous match with a final goal determined by who gets the ball past the goalie furthest from the net.
If you want to see which team will win the game, check out our NHL odds page. They'll open up after the last whistle has been blown and we know who wins the match.
NHL overtime was introduced in 2005-06 to replace the penalty shot. Before then, if the game was tied at the end of regulation time, a 10-minute overtime period would be played. The first player to score won the game for his team or lost it depending on where they were in the league standings.
The idea came from Canadian hockey since that's when most people watch the sport. Previously, games had ended in ties too often so changing the rules to make things more exciting was expected to increase ratings. It did just that, especially among younger viewers who prefer quick games over long ones.
There was one problem with this new system: No one knew how it worked. Nobody had any idea if there was a chance both teams would get points or not.