A situation in hockey where, due to a penalty, one team has fewer skaters on the ice than the other. The most common shorthanded situation is 5-on-4 for two minutes, due to the shorthanded team being assessed a minor penalty. (A diagram of how to defend a 5-on-4 can be seen at my penalty killing WU.) Other semi-common situations include 5-on-3 (a two-man advantage for the team on the power play), or 4-on-3 (power play team down one, shorthanded down two; also happens when one team is assessed a penalty during the NHL 4-on-4 regular season overtime). No team can ever have fewer than three skaters on the ice; if a player receives a penalty while his team is already down to three, he will be placed in the penalty box, but his team may replace him, and his penalty will begin immediately after the first player to enter the box has his penalty expire. It is theoretically possible to have a 6-on-3 situation if the team on a two-man advantage pulls its goaltender, but rarely (if ever) seen.

If a goal is scored while a team is shorthanded, and the penalized player is serving a single minor penalty, that minor is considered served, and the teams are restored to even strength. If there are multiple players serving minors, the first minor to expire is considered completed; if a player is serving the first half of a double minor, that half is considered served, and the player must stay in the box to complete the second half. Players serving a major penalty are not released on a goal.

Misconducts and match penalties do not incur a shorthanded situation by themselves. They are, however, usually accompanied by a corresponding major or minor penalty (e.g. a two-and-ten minor-plus-misconduct for checking from behind, or a fighting major plus match penalty for a particularly vicious attack) that will result in a power play for the wronged team. In this case, a different player from the penalized team must join the penalized player in the penalty box (or sit by himself, in the case of a match); the player serving is released once the shorthanded situation expires, and the misconduct begins after this. (In our two-and-ten example, the player that did the checking sits in the box for twelve minutes. A teammate joins him for the first two, while his team plays shorthanded, then is released at the end of the minor.)

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