It was the kind of break -- a literal break -- that can decide the outcome of a tight game.
Indeed, the Penguins were hoping it would.
And it did. Just not the way they wanted.
With less than two minutes remaining in what would become a 4-3 loss against the New York Islanders Friday night at Consol Energy Center, New York center Josh Bailey busted his stick, enhancing the chances of the Penguins getting the goal that would break a 3-3 tie.
Instead, it was the Islanders who ended up manufacturing the winner.
And it was Bailey, who had gotten a replacement stick from the New York bench, who scored it, as he pushed a shot past Penguins rookie goalie Jeff Zatkoff from the right side of the crease at 18:20.
"With 1:50 left, they broke a stick and we tried to take advantage of that," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
"We got careless with our management of the puck, they block a shot, it turns into almost a two-on-one against and, even when we got back in position, we didn't take care of the dangerous part of the ice and they got more than one whack at the game-winning goal."
Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo were credited with setting up Bailey's goal, but Bailey said the contribution of another guy -- the one who came up with a new stick for him as the play was unfolding -- shouldn't be overlooked.
"The assist goes to [equipment manager] Scott Boggs," Bailey said.
"He ran back there and grabbed one of mine, had it laying out there for me."
Although Bailey's goal decided the outcome, Bylsma said Penguins -- who had controlled play for much of the game -- actually lost their grip on it at 13:55, when New York's Pierre-Marc Bouchard was left alone in front of Zatkoff and shoveled a shot between his legs to tie the score, 3-3.
"Their third goal is where this game got away from us," Bylsma said.
Bouchard's goal was one of three the Islanders scored in the final 7:14, when the Penguins were guilty of bad decisions and sloppy execution.
"We had them where we wanted for most of the night," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "But, when you have the puck sometimes, when you don't have time, there are things you can do and things you can't do.
"We made those mistakes. We knew they were a good rush team, but we gave them odd-man rushes, odd-man-against opportunities, and they capitalized."
The loss dropped the Penguins to 7-3 and was the second defeat in two NHL starts for Zatkoff, who allowed just one goal during the first 52-plus minutes of play and finished with 21 saves.
Unlike a 6-3 loss at Florida two weeks earlier, when Zatkoff struggled for much of the game, he came through with several quality stops against the Islanders.
"I thought he played a lot stronger," Bylsma said. "It should have been enough for the win."
It might have been if the Penguins had scored on any of their five power plays, but they are in a 1-for-20 slump with the extra man.
"That's what kept us in the game, our penalty-kill," Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov said.
Even the 2013-14 debut of point man Kris Letang wasn't enough to help the Penguins get a man-advantage goal, perhaps because Letang passed on several opportunities to put the puck on goal.
"He had three or four real good chances to shoot the puck," Bylsma said.
But the power-play problems might have been moot if Nabokov, who finished with 39 saves, hadn't come up big early in the third.
The Penguins were leading, 2-1, and having things pretty much their own way when Sidney Crosby, who had scored the second goal, broke in alone on Nabokov five minutes into the period, only to be denied.
"If he scores, it's 3-1," Bailey said. "And that's likely the end for us."
Instead, Nabokov gave the Islanders a game-saving stop. Their game-winning break would come a bit later.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
First Published October 25, 2013 9:54 PM