What is the longest playoff hockey game ever played in the NHL?

The NHL has one of the most unique overtime systems in professional sports. The rules allow a game to go on for hours until a team finally puts the puck in the net. Theoretically, a playoff hockey game could never end. On the other hand, it could also be over in five seconds. That’s what makes it so electric to watch for the casual fan, and so nerve-wracking to watch if your favorite team is involved.

So what is the longest playoff hockey game ever played and how many hours was it?

How does overtime work in the NHL playoffs?

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Throughout the NHL regular season, teams play overtime before settling the game with a shootout. In this case, each team sends five players one-on-one with the goalkeeper and the team with the most goals at the end wins.

In the playoffs, however, this system changes dramatically. Instead of ending the game in a shootout, both teams play 20-minute overtime periods until someone scores. In the sudden death format, teams play as many overtime periods as it takes to decide a winner.

Normally, playoff games end in the first overtime, but some may last until the fourth or fifth overtime period.

The 2020 NHL Playoffs kicked off with one of the longest games in league history

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If you thought the 2020 NHL season couldn’t get any wackier, think again. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the league to drastically alter the playoff format, with 24 teams confined to two bubble cities to play the playoffs in front of no fans.

If that wasn’t enough, Game 1 of the playoffs lasted so long that the league was forced to reschedule the night game until the next morning. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning went to an incredible five overtimes to start the 2020 playoffs in style.

After over 150 minutes of playing time, the Lightning finally scored to earn the Game 1 win. The slug fest was the fourth longest NHL playoff game of all time, but there was one that lasted longer.

The NHL’s longest playoff game lasted nearly three hours of playing time

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The Lightning’s win over the Blue Jackets made NHL history, but it still wasn’t the longest playoff game in league history.

In 1936, the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons took six overtimes to determine a winner. The Red Wings eventually scored to seal a 1-0 win, but it took them 176 minutes and 30 seconds of playing time.

That’s four minutes away from three full games played in one. The battle took nearly three hours of playing time, but that’s not even factoring in period breaks and puck saves. The game must have lasted six or seven hours from start to finish.

Catherine J. Martinez