The Carolina Hurricanes got their first taste of three-on-three overtime this week and liked it.
All 57 seconds of it.
That’s how long it took for the Canes to score in an exhibition Monday against the Washington Capitals. The Caps’ Evgeny Kuznetsov missed the net on a shot off a two-on-one rush, the Canes’ Eric Staal collected the puck along the boards and it was over quickly.
Staal passed to defenseman Ryan Murphy skating up the slot in a three-on-one rush. Murphy passed the puck back to Staal, who found forward Kris Versteeg open to beat Caps goalie Dan Ellis for the tic-tac-toe score.
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The goal didn’t count or decide the game. The Caps had won 2-0, but the NHL is using selected exhibitions to test the new overtime format even if the score is not tied after regulation.
Call it a preview of what’s to come. The NHL has done away with four-on-four overtimes. It’s three-on-three this season in the five-minute overtimes, with the intent of reducing the number of games decided in shootouts.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting to see once we start the regular season and see the talent in this league go to work three-on-three,” Staal said. “There’s a lot of (skill) and it’s going to be fun.
“There will be a lot of chances, and I don’t think we’re going to be seeing as many shootouts. Puck control is going to be big. There’s a lot of things and we’ll see how it plays out as we go along.”
Strategies will vary. During the Canes’ Red-White scrimmage Sunday at PNC Arena, a three-on-three overtime began with the White team sending out three forwards and the Red team using two forwards and a defenseman.
It can turn into a shootout. Breakaways, two-on-ones, three-on-ones. It’s exciting.
Zach Boychuk on new NHL overtime rules
Forward Zach Boychuk got a feel for three-on-three last season while playing for the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League. The AHL overtime format had seven-minute overtimes that began four-on-four. With the first whistle after the three-minute mark, it becomes three-on-three play.
“It depends on what you’re feeling,” Boychuk said. “If you want to sit back with a forward and two (defensemen), you can do that. Or you can have three forwards out there and really go for it.
“It can turn into a shootout. Breakaways, two-on-ones, three-on-ones. It’s exciting.”
It also can be taxing, especially for defensemen. Murphy recalled a three-on-three OT segment last season with Charlotte when he was on the ice too long and couldn’t make a change.
“I was caught out there for a full 2 1/2 minutes. I was exhausted,” Murphy said.
Canes coach Bill Peters said he likes the overtime change and will “embrace it full on,” emphasizing in practices.
During a Canes practice last week, forward Jeff Skinner found another way to score in a three-on-three drill. He won the opening faceoff at center ice, to himself, then raced down ice to set up Murphy for a goal. Just made a quick jump to grab the puck after the draw and was off.
“There’s going to be some interesting things going on on faceoffs,” Skinner said. “There’s going to be a lot of space out there.”
All of which will add pressure on the goalies. A shootout is strictly one-on-one, shooter against goalie. In three-on-three overtimes, there will be more odd-man rushes such as the Staal-Murphy-Versteeg variety.
“I think it’s going to look wide open and you’re going to see a lot of up-and-down,” Canes goalie Cam Ward said. “Personally, I’m excited about it. I’d much rather have it decided in a game situation than a shootout.”
In the first 11 exhibitions that went to overtime, only one went to a shootout. Most were decided within about two minutes.
Canes goalie Eddie Lack noted a high rate of scoring in three-on-three will hurt a goalie’s goals-against average. Goals scored in shootouts don’t count against the GAA.
“But there’s definitely going to be more highlight-reel saves, too,” Lack said, smiling. “It should be fun.”
Change in the OT
▪ The NHL has adopted a new format for the five-minute overtime periods in the regular season. In the past, each team began overtime with four players. Beginning this season, it will be three against three.
▪ If a team is penalized in the overtime, the team on the power play will have a four-on-three advantage.
▪ If the score remains tied after the five-minute overtime, the game will be decided in a shootout.