How Overtime Work in the NHL

How Does 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.

How does Overtime work in the NHL?

Commonly, all the ice hockey games consist of three periods, with each period constituting 20 minutes and a total period of 60 minutes. If the score remains the same for both the contesting teams, the game is considered tied. 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 the teams play with the team members reduced to four players on each side. If there is a penalty on a team, 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 will achieve 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.

How the Overtime Period is Played and Strategy?

Because 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 players, 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 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 get the benefit.

What Happens if there are No Goals in Overtime?

Just in case if 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. For a shootout play, each team can select three players who will attack against the other team’s goalie. Each team takes turns taking shots. The team with the more significant number of goals during this time will be declared the winner finally!

What Happens if there is a Penalty in Overtime?

If a penalty has to be taken in the 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 games 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 to the game 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 the 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 overtimes 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 is ended 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, 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 periods in the 2020 playoff between Tampa Bay and Columbus, and the game carried on for an additional 6 hours!

WE HAVE Answers

Frequently Asked Questions

Overtime periods are simple to understand and comprehend, yet two essential questions usually arise in the audience’s minds. Let’s answer them.

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

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

The Bottom Line on How Does Overtime Work in the NHL?

Last but not least, 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 overtimes work.

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