The Ultimate Guide to How Does Overtime Work in the NHL?

How Overtime Work in the NHL

Imagine spending three hours watching a game, or worse, spending hours practicing for a particular exhilarating match, then spending all your energies playing a good game but ending in a tie. What a disappointment and loss of time that would seem to be!

To avoid this frustration among the players and the spectators, National Hockey League has a perfect solution, the overtime rules and regulations. If the game remains tied after the three regular periods in any NHL game, there is an overtime period to determine the winner.

What is overtime in the NHL? – If a game gets tied at the regulation end in the NHL regular season, the play will be followed by an additional 5 minutes overtime period to decide the game-winner. If a player of any team scores during overtime, the game will be over, and the scoring team will be the winner. However, if the game is still undecided in 5 minutes of overtime, then the game will head to the shootout to decide a winner.

How does Overtime work in the NHL?

Usually, all ice hockey games consist of three periods, each consisting of 20 minutes, and the total time is 60 minutes for a complete game. The game is considered tied if the score remains the same for both the contesting teams. Now, who will be called the winner in a tied hockey game?

There is another extra period of the hockey match at the end of the regulation period, known as the overtime period, to determine the winner.

How does Overtime work in the NHL
How does Overtime work in the NHL?

Overtime periods are of 5 minutes. During this period, both teams played with the team members reduced to four players on each side. If a team has a penalty, it will have to play with a lower number of members.

As soon as a team can achieve a goal, this period will end, and the team that achieves the goal first will be declared the winner. Unfortunately, if the winner cannot be decided through overtime, the game will enter the next phase, called the shootout.

Overtime Length and Sudden Death

The overtime period length is 5 minutes, and that flies quickly. But if any team scores, then the game would automatically be over right at that time, no matter how much overtime span is left.

This overtime term of automatic games over in ice hockey is called ‘Sudden Death.’ This extra period rule is different from other sports like soccer, where fans are used to watching the remaining periods played out.

Once a team scores a goal, the play will end, making the goal-scoring team the winner.

However, sometimes this extra period rule is played as the golden rule in football/soccer, where the game ends once a goal is scored, and this goal is known as the Golden goal, which is the Sudden Death in the NHL.

How the Overtime Period is Played and Strategy?

Because the overtime period is one of the most critical stages in a hockey game, there is a change of strategy for this period.

As mentioned above, the number of players is reduced to four, including the goalies. This number is reduced by having more space on the rink for skating, and it becomes more accessible to goals. With lesser players, there is a change in the style of the game.

How the Overtime Period is Played and Strategy
How the Overtime Period is Played and Strategy?

Commonly, all the players have to do is stick to the puck and keep skating until they get a chance to reach the goal. The players must have good reflexes and be fast enough to reach the goal as soon as they get the opportunity; otherwise, the other side will benefit.

What Happens if there are No Goals in Overtime?

Just in case the overtime period also gets tied, and none of the teams can score a goal, then NHL has another set of rules, and the game will still not end in a tie.

No Goals in Overtime
What Happens if there are No Goals in Overtime?

Instead, there will be a shootout. Each team can select three players who will attack against the other team’s goalie for a shootout play. Each team takes turns taking shots. The team with the more significant number of goals will finally be declared the winner!

What Happens if there is a Penalty in Overtime?

If a penalty has to be taken in overtime, then the number of players will differ during the powerplay. The team on the powerplay is allowed to add one more player while the other team is not; hence it will be a 4 -on- 3 game with the addition of one skater.

Penalty in Overtime
What Happens if there is a Penalty in Overtime?

For a second penalty, the game will be five vs. 3. At the end of the powerplay, the penalized player is allowed to come back and play. When there is the next stoppage, teams are back to 3 vs. 3.

NHL Top 10 3-on-3 Overtime Goals

How are Points Determined in Hockey Standings?

Hockey Standings are used to display which team, at a specific instant, will be able to make it to the Stanley Cup playoffs. It shows the number of points a team has at one particular moment.

All the regular seasons of the NHL are held to determine which team will qualify for the Stanley Cup, and that is the basic reason for all the teams to compete; to qualify for the Stanley Cup.

The following figure shows an example of a display of hockey standings.

nhl standings
NHL Standing (Source:

This is how the details about the teams are displayed in the standings.

Points are determined based on wins, loses, and overtime/shootout losses.

And now, coming back to overtime periods. In the case of overtime, both teams get points in the hockey standings whether they win or lose. The team that loses the match receives one point in the standing, while the winner gets two.

This additional point is rewarded because of the shootout game and the reduced number of players in the additional overtime and shootouts.

How does Overtime Work in the NHL Playoffs?

The working of the overtime period is different in the playoffs than in the NHL’s regular season. In the NHL playoffs, when the game is tied after a regulation play, the game enters into an overtime period of 20 minutes, which is played just like the regular game before and with the same rules.

Once a team scores the goal, the game ends, and the team to score wins the game. In case when there is no goal, more overtime periods with the same rules are added. The rules are the same. When the regulation play ends, there is 15 minute intermission period. When the intermission period ends, the overtime period will start.

After the first overtime period ends, there will be an intermission period of 15 minutes until a team scores and the game ends. For the record, the highest number of overtime periods seen are six in the 2020 playoffs between Tampa Bay and Columbus, and the game lasted for an additional 6 hours!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do players get points for goals and assists scored in overtime or the shootout? 

Yes, they do, there are points for all the goals and assists that are scored during this time, and the statistics get changed. However, the goals during the shootouts are excluded from this and do not get counted in personal statistics.

Is there overtime or shootout specialists in the NHL?

Yes, of course. In the overtime periods, those players preferred to be sent to the rink who had the best skating skills and was faster. While for the shootouts, players who are the best scorers are chosen and sent to compete.


Lastly, the overtimes make any hockey game increasingly exciting because of the thrill they pose. A lesson that the overtime periods tend to teach is keeping your nerves in control and working in high-stress situations. Overtime periods are a do-or-die sort of situation where only the best win.

But who is the best? The one who prepares and practices harder before the time comes and, most importantly, has learned to stay calm during the storms. What does that teach you about your everyday life? Sports also help you with life lessons! And that is all about the NHL overtime rules, a short yet comprehensive guide to how overtime work.

Austin Taylor

Who is Austin Taylor?

Meet Austin Taylor, your go-to source for everything ice hockey! With a passion for the sport that’s as deep as the ice itself, Austin Taylor brings you concise, expert insights and nitty-gritty details on all things hockey. From gear reviews to strategy breakdowns, Austin Taylor is your trusted guide to navigating the exhilarating world of ice hockey. Get ready to lace up your skates and dive into the game with Austin Taylor as your ultimate companion.

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