Buzz Deschamps never had this problem. He used a wooden stick to score dozens of goals for the Long Island Ducks in the 1960s, making enough of a name for himself that he stayed in the hockey business as a stick company representative and executive for nearly 35 years. His sticks never broke like the Islanders' have in their current playoff series.

"All I can say is composite hockey sticks, which all the guys are using now and which are breaking all the time, lose their integrity when they get a chip," said the longtime Bay Shore resident, former St. John's University coach and current director of hockey for the Town of Oyster Bay.

He was watching Tuesday night when the Islanders lost Game 4 to the Capitals, 2-1, in overtime, after John Tavares' stick broke. That left him helpless to do anything about Nicklas Backstrom's shot, which turned into the winning goal. That came with the memory still fresh of Game 2, when the Islanders allowed two important goals after players broke their sticks and, by rule, had to abandon them.

"I haven't seen anything like it, like the three goals we've given up with broken sticks. I don't know. I can't put a finger on it why," coach Jack Capuano said Wednesday.

Tavares said, "It happens. They've broken a few sticks, too. We just haven't scored when their sticks have been broken."

There is no accounting for the timing, other than bad luck. But that sticks break is a fact of modern life in hockey. Composite sticks, made of materials such as graphite and fiberglass, are more lightweight than wooden models. Players say they can shoot harder and handle pucks better with them. But lightweight equals vulnerable.

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"It seems to me, with Tavares, his sticks all break in the same spot. So somewhere along there, in front of the net or along the boards, someone is chipping his stick. He leans on it so hard on faceoffs, that as soon as you get a chip in it, it's gone," Deschamps said. "Also, when you're shooting, if you don't hit the puck directly on, if you hit any part of the ice, say you hit a half-inch behind the puck, it will snap right off on you. These guys are big and strong."

The man who started as a representative for Koho in 1972 and finished as president of Sher-Wood USA in 2006 added that defensemen are not averse to whacking at a forward's stick in front of the goal.

Things were far different when Deschamps was a kid in Canada, using the $1.29 Hespeler MicMac (the most expensive model). "You had to beg your father to get that $1.29 one," he said, "and you were only getting one a year."