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Broken sticks were bad breaks for Islanders in Game 2

New York Islanders center John Tavares loses his

New York Islanders center John Tavares loses his stick as he battles with Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik for the puck during the second period in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 15, 2015 in Washington. Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

Those broken hockey sticks from Game 2 can be looked at in one of two ways: bad breaks for the Islanders or lucky breaks for the Capitals.

The Islanders' sticks were snapping like twigs on Friday night, essentially creating power-play situations in which the Isles were a stick down rather than a man down. "We sawed their sticks off with shots," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Saturday.

The composite sticks certainly are more fragile than the wooden sticks of yesteryear. So is there a feasible strategy to compensate for the disadvantage created when one breaks?

"I think there's a little bit of strategy," John Tavares said. "We're trying to take the middle of the ice away, keep them to the outside. So clearly, you want to be able to have guys down low with sticks."

Added Josh Bailey: "I think really what we try to do, you try and stay tight, keep them to the outside, limit their scoring chances."

The Capitals, however, took full advantage of their stick advantage in their 4-3 win in Game 2 on Friday night. While Matt Martin was stranded on the ice, his stick in pieces, the Capitals moved the puck around until Karl Alzner scored on a one-timer to cut the Islanders' lead to 2-1. Later in the second period, with Kyle Okposo stick-free, Washington cut another two-goal deficit in half when Alex Ovechkin knocked in a rebound.

"I don't think I've ever seen that," Bailey said. "Where you have two sticks break and then they capitalize on both opportunities."

Jack Capuano said that even being a stick down, the Islanders could have initiated contact to limit the damage.

"Those were the shifts that they had extensive zone time because we were basically penalty-killing," Capuano said. "But we could have been a little bit more aggressive on that part, even though we had a guy without a stick."

The Islanders broke a total of five sticks in Game 2. Should any break Sunday, Tavares has a simple solution.

"We just need to do a little better job when the puck gets to our net, clearing out," he said.

Broken sticks alone weren't the reason the Islanders lost. There was Nick Leddy's giveaway in the slot and Nicklas Backstrom coasting through the zone in a one-on-four situation and the Islanders' inability to get shots off against a goalie who had just been called up from the minors.

But one can only wonder if the Islanders would have a 2-0 series advantage had those sticks held together.

"It happens," Tavares said. "It's part of the game. You face adversity. Teams are going to make plays. You've just got to find a way to make more."

In other words, tough break.

New York Sports