What are the NHL Overtime Rules for the Playoffs in 2023? – Quick Overview

The NHL playoffs feature a unique and intense overtime format, distinct from the regular season. Characterized by its sudden-death nature, this format heightens the drama of postseason hockey, with the first team to score in overtime claiming victory.

Each overtime period lasts 20 minutes, similar to regular game periods, but lacks features like shootouts or 3-on-3 overtimes. This can result in prolonged games, pushing players’ endurance and strategic skills to the limit.

The article explores this format’s nuances in 2023, its effects on player performance and team strategies, and highlights historic playoff games, including the epic 1936 match between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons.

Extra-Time Format

Stanley Cup 2023 Overtime

In 2023, the National Hockey League (NHL) continues to uphold its specific approach to overtime during the playoffs, distinctively different from the regular season format. In the playoffs, the league employs a sudden-death overtime system.

This means that the first team to score a goal during the overtime period wins the game. Notably, these extra time periods are 20 minutes long, mirroring the length of a regular period during a game. Teams continue to play 5-on-5 hockey, as they do in regulation time.

There are no shootouts or 3-on-3 overtimes, a stark contrast to the regular season rules. This system is set to continue until a winner is determined, meaning multiple overtime periods can be played if necessary.

The game pauses briefly between each overtime period, allowing teams to rest and strategize, but the action resumes with the same intensity and urgency.

The Longest Extra-Time Game in History

In the annals of NHL playoff history, one game stands out for its extraordinary length and endurance-testing nature. The longest overtime game in NHL playoff history is a testament to the intensity and unpredictability of postseason hockey.

This record-setting game took place on March 24, 1936, in a matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons. The game was part of the NHL Semi-Finals, and it unfolded at the Montreal Forum, a venue renowned for its hockey history.

What set this game apart was the sheer duration of the overtime. After ending the regular time in a tie, the teams embarked on what would become an epic journey into hockey history.

The game extended through six extra-time periods, a staggering additional 116 minutes and 30 seconds of play beyond the regular three periods. This marathon game finally concluded when Mud Bruneteau of the Detroit Red Wings scored the lone and winning goal.

The final tally came at 2:25 a.m., making the total game time an astonishing 176 minutes and 30 seconds. The players, by this point, had been on the ice for nearly three full regular games in terms of duration, showcasing an incredible level of stamina and determination.

The 1936 game remains unmatched in terms of its length in NHL playoff history. It exemplifies the grueling nature of playoff hockey and the remarkable endurance of the players who compete at this high level.

The story of this game continues to be a point of reference when discussing the most enduring and intense matches in the sport’s history.

Detailed Examination

The NHL playoffs are renowned for their intensity, drama, and the unwavering pursuit of victory. When regulation time ends in a tie, the game enters an extraordinary realm of sudden-death overtime, where the quest for a winner continues with successive 20-minute periods.

This grueling test of endurance and strategy transforms the ice into a battlefield where fatigue and tactical prowess play a pivotal role in determining the outcome.

Continuous Play Until a Winner Emerges

Goal in Overtime

In the playoffs, the overtime rules are structured to ensure a definitive result. The game continues with successive 20-minute overtime periods until one team scores, effectively ending the game.

This format can lead to prolonged and intense battles on the ice, as teams push their physical and strategic limits to secure a win.

Role of Fatigue and Strategy

The extended play over overtime brings an additional layer of complexity to the game. Players and coaches must balance the immediate need to score with the physical demands of potentially playing several extra periods.

This scenario tests not only the skill and endurance of the players but also the tactical acumen of the coaching staff. Managing player rotations, devising strategies to exploit tired opponents, and maintaining focus over an extended period become crucial elements of the game.

Impact on Player Performance and Team Dynamics

NHL Team

As the game extends into multiple overtimes, player performance can be significantly impacted. Fatigue sets in, leading to slower reactions, reduced accuracy, and increased vulnerability to injuries.

This situation demands not only physical resilience but also mental toughness from the players. Teams with depth in their roster and effective line management often have an advantage in these extended battles.

Additionally, the role of the goaltender becomes even more critical, as a single mistake can end the game.

A Closer Look

The NHL playoffs are a spectacle of skill, strategy, and endurance, partly due to the unique overtime rules that govern these high-stakes games. Getting to know these rules provides insight into the tactical decisions teams make and the intense physical and mental demands placed on players.

Sudden-Death Overtime

In the playoffs, the NHL uses a sudden-death overtime format. This means that the first team to score a goal during overtime wins the game immediately.

This rule creates a high-pressure environment where every shot, save, and play holds the potential to be game-deciding.

Length and Format of Overtime Periods

Each overtime period in the NHL playoffs is 20 minutes long, the same as a regular period during the game. The teams play 5-on-5 hockey, just as they do during regulation time.

There are no shootouts or 3-on-3 overtimes, as seen in the regular season.

Multiple Overtime Periods

If a goal is not scored in the first overtime period, the game continues with additional 20-minute overtime periods. There is no limit to the number of overtime periods played, and the game goes on until a team scores.

This can lead to marathon matches that test the limits of both teams.

Intermission and Ice Maintenance

Between each overtime period, there is a brief intermission. This time is used for ice maintenance and provides teams with a crucial opportunity to rest, hydrate, and discuss strategy.

Unlike regular intermissions, these breaks are shorter, lasting about 15 minutes.

Impact on Team Strategies

The possibility of extended overtime periods influences team strategies significantly. Coaches may adjust player rotations to manage fatigue, making decisions on when to play their top lines versus giving them rest.

This strategic dimension adds a layer of complexity to the coach’s role during the game.

Physical and Mental Demands

Impact on the team

The extended play of overtime in playoffs places extraordinary physical and mental demands on the players. Endurance, resilience, and focus become as crucial as skill and strategy.

For players, managing energy levels and staying mentally sharp is vital, especially in games that extend into multiple overtime.

Role of Special Teams

Special teams (power play and penalty kill units) play a critical role in playoff overtimes. Penalties carried over from regulation time or called during overtime can significantly impact the game’s outcome.

Teams must be disciplined and effective in both power play and penalty-kill situations.

Impact on Goalies

Goalkeepers face intense pressure during playoff overtime. A single mistake can lead to a sudden game-ending goal, placing immense responsibility on their shoulders.

Their performance is often a key factor in the team’s success in these critical moments.


Can a team call a timeout during this part of the game?

Yes, each team is allowed one 30-second timeout per game, which can be used during overtime. This is a crucial tool for coaches to strategize or give players a brief rest during intense overtime periods.

How does icing work in extra time?

The rules for icing remain the same in overtime as in regulation play. If a team ices the puck, the ensuing face-off is brought back into their defensive zone, which can be a critical factor in overtime play.

Is there a difference in overtime rules for different playoff rounds?

No, the overtime rules in the NHL playoffs are consistent across all rounds, from the first round through to the Stanley Cup Finals. The sudden-death format applies equally in each series.

Do player suspensions carry over to extra time?

Yes, if a player receives a game misconduct or match penalty during regulation, they are not eligible to return for the overtime periods. This can significantly impact team strategies and player availability.

How are officials chosen for extra-time games?

NHL officials for playoff games, including overtimes, are selected based on their performance during the regular season. The league aims to assign its highest-rated officials to these critical postseason games.

Has a goalie ever scored in playoff overtime?

As of 2023, no goalie has scored a goal in NHL playoff overtime. While rare, goalies have scored in regular season games, but this feat remains unachieved in playoff overtime scenarios.

Final Words

The NHL playoffs are a time of intense competition and excitement, and the overtime rules add to the drama and unpredictability of the games. The sudden-death format forces teams to play their best hockey, and the extended periods of play test their endurance and strategic prowess.

The longest overtime game in NHL playoff history is a testament to the grueling nature of postseason hockey and the remarkable stamina of the players who compete at this high level.