From chaos to control, NHLers reflect on evolution of 3-on-3 overtime

Mark Giordano remembers a time when 3-on-3 overtime was run-and-gun. Those chaotic days are long gone. Since reducing the number of players in the extra period from four skaters a side down to three ahead of the 2015-16 season, NHL teams have developed systems and strategies to maximize chances — and minimize them against.

Senators ink d-man Zub to contract extension; Ducks get pair of wins in Canada

A hockey player slides on one knee across the ice next to the boards with his right arm raised in celebration and fans cheer from the other side of the glass.
Winnipeg Jets’ Josh Morrissey celebrates an overtime winner in November. Morrissey is among the NHLers to note how the 3-on-3 period has evolved from run-and-gun hockey to more of an emphasis on possession. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press)

Mark Giordano remembers a time when 3-on-3 overtime was run-and-gun.

Those chaotic days are long gone.

Since reducing the number of players in the extra period from four skaters a side down to three ahead of the 2015-16 season, NHL teams have developed systems and strategies to maximize chances — and minimize them against.

End-to-end action and trading odd-man rushes was the norm early on. Now it's all about possessing the puck as long as it takes to create an opportunity.

"You can't force it," said Giordano, a veteran Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman in his 17th NHL season. "Teams are really, really good at defending 3-on-3 more than in the past and not giving up much. Line changes and switches and all those little things become big parts of 3-on-3.

"It's a fine line now. It was way more wide-open when it first came in."

WATCH | Leafs' Marner scores OT winner against Flames:

Marner and Nylander propel Leafs to OT win over Flames

6 months ago
Duration 1:45
Mitch Marner extended his point streak to 22 games and scored the game winner, while William Nylander recorded five points in Toronto's 5-4 overtime win against Calgary.

Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said winning the faceoff to start OT can be absolutely crucial with so much real estate available.

"Possession is absolute because you can never get it back," he said. "There's a whole lot of [overtimes] you win that draw and the other team never touches the puck again.

"These guys handle it so well and they skate so well, they don't have to give it up."

Maurice added teams have fostered a level of patience during 3-on-3 that wasn't there in the beginning.

"You're not seeing a lot of bad angle shots or kind of hope shots," he said. "They'll just hang on to it right to the very end if they have to."

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey was a rookie trying to find his way in the NHL when the league first introduced the new OT format.

He said apart from strategies developed through trial, error and a lot video work, the talent and skill set of game's new generation is suited to wearing down opponents in what amount to games of 3-on-3 keep away.

"It's puck possession and defensively trying to limit odd-man rushes against," Morrissey said. "Sometimes there is going to be a cost when you go down 2-on-1. If the goalie makes a big save or there's a great defensive play, sometimes it's inevitable something's gonna go the other way.

"But when things are not in frantic mode, teams are trying to hold onto the puck and trying to run crosses and switches that might confuse the defence. If you can run some crosses and drops, there's always a potential if someone's a bit tired or there's miscommunication to kind of create a little seam."

WATCH | Kyle Connor scores OT goal for Jets:

Connor's overtime winner delivers win for Jets over Predators

6 months ago
Duration 1:07
Kyle Connor scored in overtime lifting Winnipeg to a 2-1 win over Nashville.

Maurice said the offensive blue line is now often irrelevant in OT because teams are content to regroup in the neutral or defensive zones before going back on the attack.

"Don't worry about keeping it in trying to hit late men with speed," he said. "There were three or four teams that sat off man-to-man [coverage] for a while. Didn't go very well for them, so they've changed that."

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said there's also strategy when your team is in possession and shifts are getting long.

"So many talented players on the ice," he said. "You try make something out of nothing and then you stay a little too long and there's a breakdown and you can't change. That's a bad feeling."

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said with points so crucial in the standings, it was inevitable 3-on-3 would be dissected and coached.

"Definitely a lot more to it now," he said. "Trends have developed with the time and space that's available, especially with the best players in the world. The best players on each team are getting most of those minutes."

Miller added that, in the end, luck is also involved.

"It's so stressful," he said. "You're one mistake away from being on a highlight reel.

"Literally anything can happen."

WATCH | Canucks beat Sharks in OT:

Pettersson's overtime winner sinks Sharks

6 months ago
Duration 0:59
Elias Pettersson's goal in the extra frame gave Vancouver a 6-5 win over San Jose.

Sens, Zub sign contract extension

Defenceman Artem Zub has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Ottawa Senators.

The contract has an average annual value of $4.6 million US.

Zub will earn $4 million in 2023-24, and then $4.8 million in each of the remaining three seasons. The new contract takes effect on July 1 and includes a 10-team no-trade list.

Zub had several career highs last season, with six goals, 16 assists, 22 points, and 60 penalty minutes, playing in all but one of Ottawa's 82 regular-season games.

"Artem's transition to North American hockey has been remarkable," said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. "He has worked hard to establish himself as an excellent NHL player and a strong defender.

"He consistently helps make us a better defensive team while he's on the ice. We're pleased to reach agreement with him on an extension of this length."

The 27-year-old has two goals, two assists and 10 penalty minutes in 14 games this season for a career total of 11 goals and 29 assists over 142 games.

Zub has represented his country internationally on several occasions, winning gold as part of the Olympic Athletes from Russia team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and bronze with Russia at both the 2017 and 2019 world championships.

Limited Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks had just one regulation victory in 30 games to start the season.

They now have three, which came Thursday in Montreal and Saturday in Edmonton for the team's first winning streak of 2022-23.

A franchise undergoing a rebuild and featuring a young core, Anaheim will likely be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick at June's draft the rest of the campaign.

WATCH | Dostal leads Ducks past Oilers:

Lukas Dostal makes 46 saves as badly outshot Ducks edge Oilers

6 months ago
Duration 2:16
Edmonton outshot Anaheim 49-17 but relied heavily on their rookie goaltender to get the 4-3 win.

But Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins said his message has been consistent to a group that's already endured losing skids of seven and six games.

"It's important, especially for the players, that this isn't happening 'to me,"' he explained. "This is happening 'for me' and understanding that there's opportunity in adversity, there's opportunity in challenges.

"If you're just going to walk around and feel sorry for yourself or feel down about your game or down about wherever we're at, it's definitely not going to get better."

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now