Elsewhere on the World Wide Web, someone posed the following question: "Which sport is most exciting to watch in overtime?" and provided the following choices, along with their thoughts:
"NFL—Not really that exciting just because typically if you win the coin toss you win the game.Overtime in the NFL is based to much on luck.
NBA—Better then the NFL and alot [sic] more exciting especially if its [sic] a playoff overtime game, typically overtime in the NBA comes down to that last buzzard [sic] beater shot which is very exciting to watch.
MLB—I love it when baseball games go into extra innings, this is where we see what teams are really made out of, nothings [sic] more exciting then [sic] that grandslam [sic] hit in the bottom of the 12th.
NHL—Shootouts are also very exciting to watch, I love watching the game come down to the shooter vs the goalie and see who comes out on top.
NCAAF—This is how the NFL overtime should be played,both teams having a equal chance to drive down the field and score points, I love it when a team tries to win it all by trying to get a 2 point conversion to seal the game away, power offense vs power defense."
Of course with hockey, they discussed the shootout, rather than overtime itself.
Anyways, it is my opinion that the most exciting overtime in sports is in the National Hockey League. The NHL team I am able to follow most closely is the Anaheim Ducks, and I will draw on personal experience to support my position.
First, though, I would like to share one of the primary reasons why I feel this way: sudden-death. In NHL OT, if you score, you win—game over, that's it. It doesn't matter how much time is left on the clock, the other team absolutely cannot come back. That factor adds so much more pressure to the situation.
Now, for two games I have seen that are prime examples of how thrilling overtime is in hockey.
The first choice example is Game Two of the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals between the Ducks and Detroit Red Wings. At the end of regulation, the score was tied 3-3, so they went to an extra session. It finished with the scoreboard still reading 3-3, so play continued. End of the second overtime: 3-3.
Yet another period of bonus hockey would be necessary. Finally, Todd Marchant scored on a power-play just one minute and 15 seconds into the 3rd OT to give Anaheim a (likely) exhausting win (note: The photograph above displays Marchant's joy—and a Red Wings' fan's disappointment—over the final outcome).
In the postseason, no shootout is used and each overtime period is 20 minutes long, as in regulation. (During the regular season, there is one five-minute OT followed by a shootout, if necessary.) That means 101 minutes and 15 seconds of hockey were played before all was said and done. Remember, a regulation game lasts 60 minutes.
Furthermore, because this was a postseason game between two of the most successful teams in the playoffs over the past few years, the stakes were even higher than they would be in some games. The Red Wings were looking to take a two-game series lead before the series shifted to Anaheim.
The Ducks aimed to go home with the series tied 1-1. Had the Ducks lost, they would have been forced into a difficult spot. Perhaps, a Game Two victory would have allowed Detroit to win the series sooner than Game Seven. An Anaheim win, however, placed the teams on even groud heading into the next contest.
This game was quite the nerve-wracker but sensational, nontheless.
The second game I will use as evidence was played between the Ducks and Dallas Stars on April 10, 2009. I had the great fortune of being at this electrifying game. It was Fan Appreciation Night at the Honda Center, and the Ducks certainly made it a good one.
It could have been a heartbreaker, though. With about 90 seconds left, the Ducks were leading 3-2. The standing room only crowd was on its feet, trying to cheer the clock to zero.
I couldn't help worrying the premature joy would somehow cause a jinx, but I also couldn't keep myself from cheering as well. Sure enough, Steve Ott scored with 13.1 seconds left to knot the score at three-all.
The five-minute OT showdown failed to produce a goal, sending the competition to the mano a mano confrontation that is the shootout.
To start off, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan (Anaheim) and Fabian Brunnstrom (Dallas) all missed. Next, James Neal made his shot to give the Stars the SO lead. Then, Ryan Getzlaf scored to keep the Ducks alive. The Stars' Mike Modano followed with a miss.
The "Finnish Flash" and face of the Anaheim franchise, Teemu Selanne, scored on a top shelf wrister past Dallas netminder Marty Turco. Now, a save by Jonas Hiller would give the Ducks the win, which they got when Hiller stopped a shot by Loui Eriksson.
The personal effect this had on me is a testament to the brilliance of overtime hockey. I am, typically, a fairly quiet person. I am not, usually, the sort to yell.
That game, though, provided the rare exception. It started with approximately a minute and a half left in the third period and continued from there (bascially the entire time they were playing from that moment, I was cheering at the top of my lungs).
During the shootout, with each Anaheim attempt, I chanted "Come on [Duck's name]," until they took the shot, followed by more screams of joy if he made it. Each try by Dallas prompted me to repeatedly shout "Come on Jonas!" until the shot was taken. A stop by Hiller, of course, caused more cheering.
The Ducks only needed the one point they received by going to overtime to clinch a playoff spot. They did not need that extra point, and, ultimately, it did not help boost them in the standings. Still, that minor detail didn't keep that game from being, possibly, the single most exciting event I have ever witnessed in person.
Another overtime game involving Anaheim I did not see but would still like to point out was another playoff game against Detroit.
On April 10, 2003, the Ducks beat Dallas in the third overtime on a goal by Paul Kariya. That was Game One of the 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere's postseason debut; Giguere made 63 saves.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to see that game, but I don't see how it could have possibly not been exciting. The then-Mighty Ducks were clear underdogs playing against one of hockey's elite teams. The man known to fans as "Jiggy" had never played in the playoffs before.
In addition, it would end up starting off the team's magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals and leading to Giguere winning the Conn Smythe trophy.
Well there you have it. I hope these games I illustrated serve as sufficient examples of what makes overtime hockey so amazing.