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Short-handed is a term used in ice hockey and several related sports, including water polo, and refers to having fewer skaters (players) on the ice during play, as a result of a penalty. The player removed from play serves the penalty in the penalty box for a set amount of time proportional to the severity of the infraction. If a goaltender commits a minor infraction, another player who was on the ice at the time of the penalty serves, often but not necessarily the team captain.
The penalized team is said to be on the penalty kill, abbreviated as "PK" for recording purposes, while their players are in the penalty box. The opposing team is usually referred to as having an "advantage" until the penalized player returns to play. This situation is often called a power play for the opposing team, due to the increased likelihood of scoring during this time. Not only does the power play team have the main advantage, the penalized team is frequently trapped in their zone and often cannot make line changes, resulting in their players being on the ice for longer-than-normal shifts. As a result, the penalized team's players are often exhausted when the penalty expires and they are often scored on shortly afterward.
The team on the power play often only has one defenseman at the rear rather than the typical two, in favor of adding another attacker. Rarely, teams have pulled their goalie for the sixth on-ice player (such as in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals). Players assigned to power play or penalty killing duties are often known as "special teams".
During a power play, the short-handed team may launch the puck to the opposite end of the rink, and play will continue: icing is not called, something that the 1970s-era WHA in North America did not do, as that league called icings even during a penalty kill.
If the team with the power play scores a goal while the other team is short-handed, the penalty is over, unless it was a major penalty or a match penalty.
A team can have two players in the penalty box, but can only be limited to three players on the ice at any given time. If the other team is at full strength and the penalized team has two players in the penalty box, plus a goalie in net, the situation is called a 5-on-3. This situation gives the team on the power play an even greater chance of scoring. If the advantaged team on the 5-on-3 scores, the player who took the earlier of the two penalties may return to the ice, and play resumes as a power play with only one player in the penalty box. However, if the first penalty taken was a double-minor penalty, the penalty that expires is the first penalty of the double-minor, and the clock then begins to run down on the second penalty, with the 5-on-3 continuing.
A call for too many men on the ice in a 5-on-3 situation in the last two minutes of regulation or in overtime now results in a penalty shot. This current rule resulted from Coach Roger Neilson's exploitation of rule loopholes during an OHL game when his team was up one goal, but was down two men in a five-on-three situation for the last minute of the game. Realizing that more penalties could not be served under the existing rules, Neilson put too many men on the ice every ten seconds. The referees stopped the play and a face-off was held, relieving pressure on the defense.
A short-handed goal is a goal scored in ice hockey when a team's on-ice players are outnumbered by the opposing team's. Normally, a team would be outnumbered because of a penalty incurred. However, the opposing team on the power play often only has one defenceman at the rear rather than the typical two, in favor of adding another attacker. This strategy can often be exploited by the short-handed team, if they do manage to get the puck out into the neutral zone leaving most of the opposing players behind, and the penalty killers may enjoy odd man rushes and breakaways against the single defenceman of the advantaged team. Unlike power play goals, shorthanded goals cannot end penalties (unless if a shorthanded goal is scored in overtime, which automatically ends the game).
When one team pulls its goalie near the end of a game to play with an extra attacker, any goal scored on the empty net is not considered to be short-handed (because there are equal numbers of players on ice for the teams).
Short-handed goals are somewhat infrequent when a team is down one player, and some instances have occurred where two short-handed goals have been scored on the same penalty. Very rarely is a short-handed goal scored by a team that is down two players. Former Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards is the only player in the history of the NHL to score three career 3-on-5 goals, having attained the last one during the 2008-09 season. The quickest trio of short-handed goals ever scored in a National Hockey League game occurred on April 10, 2010 during a game at the TD Garden between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, when the Bruins scored three short-handed goals against Carolina goaltender Cam Ward in only 1:04 of game time, during a minor hooking penalty to Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick. The Boston Bruins also made NHL history for those short-handed goals, as it was the first time that a team scored three times on a single penalty kill (Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler, Steve Begin). The most short-handed goals ever scored in one NHL game by one team occurred on April 7, 1995, when the Winnipeg Jets scored four, the most since the end of the era of the Original Six teams of the NHL.
- "Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins Game Boxscore - 04/10/2010". NHL.com. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
- "Bruins score 3 shorthanded goals on the same penalty 4/10/10". YouTube. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
- "Bruins 4, Hurricanes 2". Associated Press. Boston Bruins. 2011-04-10. Retrieved 2011-11-06.