A guide to NHL overtime rules for the 2021-2022 season


One of the best parts of the NHL is overtime. 

A hectic, shortened period with three-on-three hockey, overtime sets up some of the most entertaining hockey you’ll find. With more open ice, it’s an opportunity for more speed, more skill and more chaos. 

With the 2021-22 NHL regular season starting in less than a week, the first overtime of the season should be coming soon. 

Here is everything you need to know about the NHL overtimes rules. 

What are the overtime rules in the NHL?

If the score remains tied after three periods, the game goes to overtime. Overtime is a five-minute period where the first team to score wins the game. 

The overtime period is played three-on-three, with each team having three skaters on the ice. For years, there were four skaters on each side, but the NHL adopted the three-on-three format at the start of the 2015-16 season. 

If a penalty occurs, the team that goes on the power play gains a skater. Therefore, it will be four-on-three during the duration of the penalty. If the team on the penalty kill commits another penalty, then it goes to five-on-three. 

When the penalty expires, that player can go on the ice and the teams will play even strength at four-on-four until the next whistle. Then, the game resumes to three-on-three. 

What happens if no team scores in overtime?

If the game is still tied after overtime, then it goes to a shootout. 

Each team alternates a player coming down alone on a goalie and attempting to score. Three rounds will be played to determine a winner. 


If the shootout score is tied after the three rounds, it moves to sudden death rounds, where each team gets a shot to win until one team scores and the other doesn't. 

What are the overtime rules for the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

In the postseason, the rules are different. Overtime is played at five-on-five and the periods are 20 minutes long like a normal period. It remains sudden death, so the first team to score wins the game. 

There is no shootout, so if the first overtime period ends without a goal, then the game will move to a second overtime with the same format. This continues until a goal is scored.