One of the many wonderful things about the Stanley Cup Playoffs is all the ‘bonus hockey’ fans are treated to each round. There’s nothing in sports that quite matches the urgency of a sudden death overtime in playoff hockey.
So far in the 2021 playoffs, fans have been treated to 17 such games. Of those, five went to at least double-overtime. The playoffs’ longest game to date is Game 4 between Edmonton and Winnipeg, in which the Jets’ Kyle Connor ended at 6:52 of the third overtime period to break Oilers fans’ hearts.
Round 1 of the 2021 playoffs, alone, saw 16 games head to at least one extra frame. That probably feels like a lot. And it is. Only two playoff rounds in NHL history, Rounds 1 in 2017 and 2013, had more games go to overtime. So, 2021 fell just short of making history in that respect. But, who knows, this year could still be on track to break some other records.
Here is a look at 10 NHL Playoff OT records you may find interesting.
Most OT Games – Single Playoff Round (League): 18 (2017 Playoffs Round 1)
A whopping 18 games in the 2017 playoffs’ first round required at least one extra period. Half of those games featured a team from the Battle of Ontario; Ottawa had a quartet of OT contests with Boston and Toronto went to OT five times versus Washington. Fittingly, Pittsburgh beat Ottawa in double-overtime to win the Prince of Wales Trophy. They would ultimately win their second consecutive Cup, though no Cup final game went past regulation.
Most OT Games – Single Playoff Year (League): 28 (2 Times) (1993 Playoffs, 2020 playoffs)
Twice have there been 28 overtime games in a single playoff year. The more recent occurrence was last season. But that figure includes eight play-in round OT games – three of which were played with regular-season overtime rules. Lame. In total, 28 of last year’s 130 playoff games went long. That has nothing on 1992-93, when 28 of 85 games necessitated bonus hockey. Unsurprisingly, the respective champs from these two seasons will show up again. Soon.
Fewest OT Games – Single Playoff Year (League – Post-Expansion Era): 2 (1970 Playoffs)
In its nascency, the league went entire playoffs without overtime. Multiple years, even. Between 1923-24 and 1925-26, no playoff games went long. But that hasn’t happened since 1963. Anything that’s last playoff occurrence was in the ’60s may as well not even be real. Post-expansion era, the leanest OT year was 1970 – only two of 34 games reached OT. Since the turn of the millennium, it was nine OTs in 83 games in 2000.
Most OT Games – Single Playoff Year (One Team): 11 (1993 Montreal Canadiens)
The 1993 Canadiens are Canada’s most recent Cup champs. You already know that. That won’t impress anyone at trivia night. What may? The knowledge that the Montreal team also played more overtime games in a single playoff than any other team in NHL history. Those Habs lost their playoff opener in extra time before rattling off 10 OT wins in a row en route to Cup glory. Seven different Habs scored at least one OT winner.
Most OT Wins – Single Playoff Year (One Team): 10 (1993 Montreal Canadiens)
The ’93 Habs reign here too. The runners-up? One champ – the 2020 Lightning – and a pair of early-aughts Cinderellas whose clocks struck midnight. The 2003 Ducks got ‘Jiggy’ late into the night, tormenting east coasters by sending seven games to OT. They won all seven but ultimately came one win short. The previous year, Carolina went 7-2 in OT before losing to Detroit in five Cup games. Both Cinderellas broke Canadian hearts later that decade.
Most OT Losses – Single Playoff Year (One Team): 4 (15 Times) (Most recently: 2020 New York Islanders)
There have been 15 occurrences of one team losing four OT games in a single playoff. Twelve franchises are represented. The Kings, Devils and Rangers have each done it twice. Three teams – the 1999 Stars, 2002 Red Wings and 2003 Devils – went on to win the Cup despite their oft-occurring heartbreaks. Those 1999 Stars went 4-4 in extra hockey and clinched three series with OT wins (two in triple-overtime), including the infamous “No Goal” game.
Most OT games – Single Playoff Series: 5 (3 times) (Most recently: 2017 Playoffs – Toronto vs Washington)
If you thought Carolina and Nashville played a lot of overtime this year… well, they did. But that series wasn’t quite record-book ready. There are three instances of a single playoff series seeing five of its contests go to sudden death. The most recent was in the 2017 playoffs when the Maple Leafs and Capitals went to overtime in five of six games. Only Game 4 – still a one-goal game – didn’t require any extra hockey.
Shortest Playoff OT: 0:09 (1986 Playoffs – Montreal vs Calgary – May 18, 1986)
Montreal center Brian Skrudland scored nine goals during his 1985-86 rookie campaign. He scored his first in just his fourth NHL game, an Oct. 19, 1985, contest against Hartford. But finding his first playoff marker proved harder for the Peace River, Alta., native. He went his first 16 playoff games, and the entirety of regulation-time in his 17th game, without a goal. Fortunately for him, he had only nine more seconds to wait from there.
Longest Playoff OT: 116:30 (1936 Playoffs – Detroit vs Montreal – March 24, 1936)
The official record may disagree, but it must have felt like it took Detroit 17 games to score their first goal in Game 1 of the 1936 NHL semi-finals against the Montreal Maroons. In actuality, it took Mud Bruneteau the equivalent of just under three games to solve Montreal’s Lorne Chabot. The closest game since? Game 4 of the second round between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in 2000. Keith Primeau ended it at 92:01 of OT.
First OT Game – NHL Playoff History: Stanley Cup final Game 4 (1919 Playoffs)
Finally, we remember where we came from. The first overtime game in NHL playoff history occurred over a century ago, on March 26, 1919, during the 1919 Stanley Cup final. The series pitted the NHL champs, the Montreal Canadiens, against the Seattle Metropolitans, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champions. The game ended in a scoreless tie. Game 5 also went to OT – Montreal won – before the series was canceled due to the Spanish Flu epidemic.
(records collected from records.nhl.com)