The stakes can be high: Philadelphia's run to the Stanley Cup Final never would have happened if the Flyers hadn't beaten the New York Rangers in a shootout on the final day of the season. Three years ago, the New York Islanders made the postseason with a shootout win in their season finale.
The shootout's five seasons have shown that some players and some teams are better at it than others. Most interesting is the fact that some of hockey's biggest names have struggled in the shootout, while a number of lesser lights have shone brightly.
Here's a look at some of the best of the first five seasons of the shootout:
Both players went 3-for-3 last season in the only shootout attempts of their careers. But both spent most of the season in the minors and have new teams this season -- Parenteau went from the Rangers to the Islanders, while Santorelli was traded by Nashville to Florida.
The 12 players who are 1-for-1 don't include many household names -- they're players who got their chance in a long shootout after teams exhausted their big guns. However, most of them did come through in the clutch; 10 of them scored the game-deciding goal.
Minnesota's Chuck Kobasew is the complete opposite -- he's never scored in a shootout, although he's had nine tries. That's the most attempts by a shooter without beating the goaltender, one more than Colorado's Paul Stastny. Among players with 10 or more attempts, the lowest percentage belongs to Taylor Pyatt (1-for-13, 7.7 percent).
The best shooter who's taken 10 or more shots is former Minnesota defenseman Petteri Nummelin, who went 8-for-10 (.800) in 2005-06 and 2006-07. No other shooter with 10 or more shots has scored on more than 60 percent of them. Among players who were active last season, the percentage leader is Slava Kozlov, whose 27 shootout goals are the most by any player. He has scored on 57.8 percent of his 46 attempts.
The Closer -- The most remarkable performance in the shootout's five years belongs to Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin.
The 36-year-old never had taken a shootout attempt until the Coyotes' game at Nashville on Feb. 2, when the teams played 65 scoreless minutes and battled through nine rounds of a shootout. Aucoin, who recently had won a shootout competition after practice, had his number called by coach Dave Tippett and ripped home a wrist shot for the winning goal.
He did it again two nights later in Chicago, using the same approach -- a laser-like wrister -- to score the game-winner. Aucoin went on to convert his first five attempts, all of which decided the game, and finished 6-for-9 with a League-record 6 game-deciding goals.
Aucoin's 6 deciding goals were two more than Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and L.A.'s Anze Kopitar. But Crosby's 4 game-deciders were enough to put him in first place in the all-time standings with 13, two more than Kozlov, Toronto's Phil Kessel and Ales Kotalik -- the only other players in double figures.
Super stopper -- Several goaltenders have had excellent seasons in shootouts, but it's hard to envision anyone topping the performance Mathieu Garon turned in for Edmonton in 2007-08.
Garon was only 16-18 in games decided in regulation and lost his only overtime decision. But he was flawless -- and nearly unbeatable -- in shootouts. Garon was a perfect 10-0 for the Oilers, who set an NHL single-season record with 15 shootout wins (Phoenix came within one of that mark in 2009-10). Garon was 5-0 at Rexall Place and 5-0 on the road while allowing just two goals on 32 attempts, a .932 save percentage. He stopped all 14 attempts he faced in the five road wins.
Garon, now with Columbus, has an 18-7 career record in shootouts, including a record 13-game winning streak that ended last Nov. 16. His career save percentage of .756 is third behind New Jersey's Johan Hedberg (.805) and Nashville's Pekka Rinne (.756) among goaltenders who have played in 15 or more shootouts. His 10 wins in 2007-08 are tied with Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller (both in 2006-07) for the most in a single season. Ilya Bryzgalov of Phoenix and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles were tops last season with eight wins.
Neal improved from 24 goals to 27 (and 37 points to 55) in his second NHL season, but his scoring touch in the shootout completely disappeared. He went from one of the best at the shootout to a record-setting 0-for-10 showing, the most attempts ever by a player without scoring.
But Neal is in some good company: Among the players who have taken a season-long 0-fer with five or more attempts are Joe Sakic (2005-06, 0-for-7), Marian Gaborik (2005-06, 0-for-6), Paul Kariya (2007-08, 0-for-6), and Jarome Iginla (2008-09, 0-for-5).
Neal doesn't own the longest current streak of misses. Teammate Mike Ribeiro; Alexei Ponikarovsky, who signed with the Kings this summer; and Columbus center Antoine Vermette all are 0-for-11. Islanders forward Trent Hunter snapped his 0-for-14 drought by scoring his first career shootout goal Nov. 11.
The most successful streak shooter is Jussi Jokinen, now with Carolina. Jokinen was with Dallas in 2005-06 when he scored on his first nine attempts
Another Brodeur best -- Perhaps not surprisingly, the winningest goaltender in NHL history is also No. 1 in shootout victories. Martin Brodeur tops all goaltenders with 34 wins in the shootout, four more than Atlantic Division rival Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. Brodeur is an equal-opportunity winner -- he has 17 shootout wins at home and 17 on the road.
Brodeur took part in 10 shootouts last season, moving him back in front of Lundqvist for the most shootouts by a goaltender, with 52. Lundqvist (30-21 lifetime) is next with 51; Marty Turco, who recently signed with Chicago after spending his career with Dallas, is third with 50.
Does practice make perfect? -- The Rangers, Oilers and Boston Bruins have been the most active participants in shootouts. All have taken part in 65, with the Oilers winning 39, tying them with Dallas and New Jersey for the most in the shootout's five-year history. The Rangers are next with 37 wins, while the Bruins have won 31 and own a shootout-record 34 losses.
At the other extreme, the Carolina Hurricanes have been involved in only 37 shootouts -- and won just 17 of them. Calgary has taken part in only 38 and has just 14 victories, the fewest of any team.