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What is Shorthanded?

A game situation where a team has less players on the ice than its opponents from the result of a penalty. A shorthanded team can be one or two players short compared to their opponents, depending on the number of penalties they have taken. If a player is given a minor penalty, his team will play shorthanded for two minutes (or less, if the opposing team scores on the resulting power play), and if a player is given a major or a match penalty, his team will play shorthanded for five minutes. When a team is shorthanded, their opponents are said to be "on the power play". 

Sporting Charts explains Shorthanded

There exist five possible shorthanded situations: 4-on-5, 3-on-5, 3-on-4, 4-on-6 and 3-on-6 (the first number refers to the number of players on the ice for the shorthanded team, and the second number refers to the number of players on the ice for the opposing team). In 4-on-5 or 3-on-4 situations, the shorthanded team is down one man compared to their opponents, meaning that they have taken one more penalty than them. In a 3-on-5 situation, the shorthanded team has taken two penalties compared to none for the opposing team. The last two situations are less common and take place when one team pulls their goaltender to put more attacking pressure on the shorthanded team (which is usually leading the game) in the hope of scoring a late goal.  

The only advantage that a team has when it is shorthanded is that its players are allowed to clear the puck out of their zone by shooting it from anywhere on the ice without being called for icing. Because the objective of the shorthanded team is to kill a penalty, its players will try to clear the puck as often as they can so that the attacking team does not have a chance to score a power play goal.

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