On this day in 1996, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals, 3-2, in 139 minutes and 15 seconds of total game play, making it the fifth-longest match in the history of the National Hockey League.
A regulation hockey game lasts 60 minutes. According to NHL rules, playoff matches aren’t allowed to end in a tie, so teams must keep going–in sudden death, 20-minute periods–until someone wins. In theory, an NHL game could go on forever with no one winning, although this has never happened. On April 24, during Game 4 of the conference quarterfinals match up between the Penguins and Capitals, the game went into a fourth overtime before Pittsburgh’s Petr Nedved scored the winning goal with less than a minute left in the OT period. The Penguins ultimately won the series in six games and advanced to the next round, where they defeated the New York Rangers in five games. However, Pittsburgh ultimately lost the Eastern Conference Finals that year to the Florida Panthers, in seven games.
The longest-ever NHL game took place on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons, 1-0, in six overtimes for a total of 176 minutes and 30 seconds. Mud Bruneteau scored the winning goal. Hockey’s second-longest game involved six overtimes between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins on April 3, 1933. Toronto won the game, 1-0, in 164 minutes 46 seconds. On May 4, 2000, the third-lengthiest match, between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended after 152 minutes and 1 second, with the victory going to Philadelphia, 2-1. Dallas, Texas, was the site of hockey’s fourth-longest game, when the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim defeated the Dallas Stars, 4-3, in 140 minutes and 48 seconds.