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A shootout is a tiebreaker method that consists of alternatively sending a player from each team involved in a tied game on a one-on-one with the opposite team's goaltender (exactly like in a penalty shot), in the hope they can beat the goalie and score a goal. There is a set number of players participating in a shootout session on each side, and the team who has scored the most goals once all the designated players have had their chance to shoot win the game. A game still tied after all said players have had their chance will result in additional players being given their chance. If the initial round of the shootout is a cumulative goal total from each side, that second part is of a sudden death round format, and any goal scored puts an end to the match, as long as the opposing team missed the net in the same round.

International shootout

IIHF sanctioned tournaments and many leagues worldwide allow five players per team to take a penalty shot on the opposing goaltender in a shootout session. After the ten players have had their chance to take a shot, the team who has scored the most goals win the game. Even if more than one goal is scored by the winning side, only one goal is added to the game total of the winning side; likewise, no goal scored in the shootout by the losing side will be counted in the game total. So, for instance, if two teams are tied 4-4 before the beginning of the shootout and the shootout ends with the first team scoring thrice and the second team scoring twice, then the final score of the game will be 5-4 for the winner, and not 7-6.

While five players are chosen per side, it is possible for the shootouts to end before all ten players have taken their shot. Should one team score thrice on as many shots while the second team scores no goal, for instance, then the shootout ends after the six skater, since there is no use continuing the shootout, the second team being in a situation where it has no chance of scoring enough goals to tie the first.

North American shootout

While minor leagues have embraced the shootout for a long time, the National Hockey League waited until the 2005-06 season to adopt it. If the minor pro leagues often go with five skaters a side, the NHL opted for three skaters a side in the shootout's initial round. Just as with international shootouts, sudden death rounds become necessary if both teams fail to determine a winner with the initial round. No player may shoot twice in a shootout, unless the sudden death rounds keep adding themselves to no avail and no winner has been decided after every player of the team (goalies excepted) have taken a shot.

In North America, shootouts are not used in playoffs games. Instead, additional 20 minutes overtime periods are added until a goal is scored.

High Scoring Game

An alternate use of the term shootout is a high scoring game when both teams score many goals.  The term refers to many shots being taken as a simile to an Old American West shootout or a gun fight.