Overtime rules for hockey : explained

Overtime in hockey, like in any sport, is a period of time used to determine the winner of a game that is tied at the end of regulation time. Hockey overtime falls under the category of "sudden death," meaning that the first team to score wins, but there are some variations. During the National Hockey League regular season, tied games are followed by a five-minute overtime period. The overtime period is played four-on-four, whereas regulation play features five players per side.

Overtime, in ice hockey, is a method of determining the winner and loser of ice hockey matches should a game be tied after regulation. Two main methods include the overtime period (commonly referred to as overtime), and the shootout.

Overtime periods are extra periods beyond the third regulation period during a game, where normal hockey rules apply. Although in the past, full-length overtime periods were played, overtimes today are sudden death, meaning that the game ends immediately when a player scores a goal.

For the 1983–84 season, the NHL introduced a regular season overtime period of five minutes, compared to the twenty minutes of regulation periods. If the five minute overtime period ended with no scoring, the game was a tie (The World Hockey Association had used a 10-minute regular season overtime period, as had the NHL prior to World War II).

In 1987–88 and since 1995, the American Hockey League has awarded teams one point in the standings for an overtime loss (OTL). In 1998, the AHL introduced a rule where teams will play the five minute overtime period with four skaters and a goaltender, rather than at full strength (five skaters), except in two-man advantage situations. In a two-man advantage situation, the team with the advantage will play with five skaters. The rule was popular and adopted by the NHL and ECHL the next season.

Should the overtime period end with neither side scoring, the teams then take part in a "shootout", which goes to sudden death if tied after the third or fifth round, depending on the league.

Mats Sundin, Sergei Fedorov, Jaromír Jágr and Patrik Eliáš share the record for most regular season overtime goals with 15 each.

In the Stanley Cup playoffs, the teams are at full strength (five skaters, barring penalties), there isn't a shootout, and the overtime period is 20 minutes. Joe Sakic has the record for most career playoff overtime goals with eight. Interestingly, three of the game's legendary players, Mark Messier (109 playoff goals), Mario Lemieux (77 goals), and Gordie Howe (68 goals) never scored a playoff overtime goal. Overtime periods are played without commercial breaks.

In many leagues (including the NHL for regular-season games since the 2005–06 season) and in international competitions, a failure to reach a decision in a single overtime may lead to a shootout. Some leagues may eschew overtime periods altogether and end games in shootout should teams be tied at the end of regulation. In the three major North American professional hockey leagues (NHL, AHL, ECHL), regular season overtime periods are played four on four for one five minute period. In the Southern Professional Hockey League, regular season overtime periods are played three on three for one five minute period, with penalties resulting in the opponents skating one additional player on ice (up to two additional players) for the penalty for the first three minutes, and a penalty shot in the final two minutes.

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