Hockey Shootouts Explained

Hockey Shootout

For years in regular season NHL play, a game that went into overtime was decided during one additional five-minute period, sometimes ending in a tie. But the rules changed just over a decade ago when NHL officials added the shootout rule. What exactly does that mean?

What Is a Hockey Shootout?

The hockey shootout rule was implemented at the start of the 2005-06 NHL season, in an effort to reduce the number of games ending in ties during the regular season. The rule eliminates such games, guaranteeing a winner.

In a hockey shootout, each team alternates taking shots on goal in a one-on-one matchup with the opposing team’s goalie. The hockey shootout rule retains part of an existing overtime guideline for regular season games. Established in 1983, it states that if the game is tied at the end of regulation play, a five-minute overtime period can determine the winner.

However, that long-standing rule still allows the game to end in a tie if neither team scores during those five minutes. This is where the hockey shootout overtime rule comes in.

How Does a Hockey Shootout Work?

In a hockey game, overtime begins with the three-on-three, five-minute overtime period; the first team to score wins. But if a winner is not determined in that time, the game advances to the shootout, during which players from each team are allowed three chances to score in a one-on-one matchup with the opposing team’s goalie. If the score remains tied after those three attempts, the hockey shootout becomes a sudden death match until one of the teams scores.

The overtime hockey shootout rule also impacts NHL overall league standings. Each team receives one point in the overall ranking by going into overtime. The winner receives an additional point.

The shootout rule doesn’t apply to postseason playoff games. Instead, if teams are tied at the end of regulation, they go on to play an additional 20-minute period, during which the first team to score wins the game. There are no overtime shootouts in the playoffs; the game continues with 20-minute periods until a winner is crowned.

Hockey Shootout Facts

NHL overtime shootouts not only decide a game’s outcome, they’ve also become a chance for players to show the fans what they’ve got. Players are honing their shooting skills and have put up some impressive numbers of regular and game-deciding goals.

Player Stats

  • Most shootout goals in a single season: 11 (Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils)
  • Most career shootout goals: 49 (Frans Nielsen, Detroit Red Wings; previously played for the New York Islanders)
  • Most game-deciding shootout goals in a single season: 7 (Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils)
  • Most career game-deciding shootout goals: 23 (Frans Nielsen, Detroit Red Wings)
  • Most shootout wins by a goaltender in a single season (overtime shootout wins are credited to the goaltender): 10 (Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres in 2006-07;  Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils in 2006–07; Mathieu Garon, Edmonton Oilers in 2007–08; and Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings in 2010–11)
  • Most career saves in a shootout by a goaltender: 290 (Henrik Lundqvist)

Team Stats

When it comes to the most overtime shootout appearances, wins, and losses, some NHL teams have set themselves apart from the pack.

  • Most shootout wins in a single season: 15 (Edmonton Oilers)
  • Most shootout wins in history: 79 (New York Islanders)
  • Most shootout appearances by a team in a single season: 21 (Washington Capitals)
  • Most shootout appearances by a single team: 158 (Florida Panthers)

The longest NHL overtime shootout, included in the Guinness Book of World Records, occurred on December 16, 2014 in a matchup between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals. After 20 rounds, the Panthers took the win. This game also set three other records: most shootout goals by both teams (11), most shootout goals by a single team (the Panthers had six); and most shootout saves by a goaltender (the Panthers’ Roberto Luongo had 15).

The previous record for the longest overtime shootout was 15 rounds, in a game between the New York Rangers and the Capitals in 2005; the Rangers prevailed.

The Hockey Shootout Debate

Some call the overtime hockey shootout tiebreaker entertaining. It’s an exciting demonstration of players’ skills and it eliminates tie games. It also delivers more immediate game-end results, typically determining a winner quicker than with regular-play overtime periods.

Other fans are against the shootout in overtime, saying it takes away from the actual game of hockey itself. Teams should earn points by out-playing the opposing team during regular and overtime periods. Instead, the overtime shootout rule determines a winner based on a single skill set rather than a team’s talent and hard work.

Hockey is an ever-evolving game featuring rule changes and revisions that make it fresh, exciting, and entertaining. With those rule changes, including the overtime shootout, hockey league officials are working to keep it that way.