Hollweg was felled by Simon late in the third period Thursday night when the New York Islanders’ forward angrily charged him and nailed him with a clothesline hit with his stick.
Simon was ejected, and Petr Prucha scored on the resulting long power play to lift the Rangers to a 2-1 win and a sweep of the home-and-home series between the local rivals.
“The best retaliation is to score on that power play,” Hollweg said. “I couldn’t feel any better than when that puck went in.”
Hollweg stayed down on the ice for several minutes after the hit and was bleeding from the chin when he got up. He took a few stitches and had his face numbed, but expects to play Saturday when the Rangers visit Pittsburgh.
“I feel good,” he said. “We got the win.
“I kind of lost my hearing for a bit after it happened. I might’ve been out for a second or two. The pain goes away when you get those two points.”
The hit was reminiscent of often-replayed clips of Marty McSorley’s swinging stick shot to the head of Donald Brashear, and Todd Bertuzzi’s blindside punch against Steve Moore. Those both drew lengthy suspensions, and Simon could conceivably be shelved for the Islanders’ remaining 15 regular-season games.
“I feel bad for taking a penalty that led to us losing the game,” said Simon, who cut his remarks short. “I think I’ll wait until I talk to the league office, and then I’ll answer all questions afterward. “I’ve always been known as a team guy, and I feel real bad about letting the team down.”
Prucha fired in a shot from the slot, off a pass from Michael Nylander with 5:14 left in the game and 1:17 into Simon’s penalty.
The Islanders killed off the rest of the power play and thought they tied the game with 20.4 seconds left. Marc-Andre Bergeron’s shot was stopped by Henrik Lundqvist and Trent Hunter slid the puck back to the goal-line where Lundqvist barely swept it out.
After a lengthy video review, with fans chanting “Goal! Goal!” while accompanied by the organist, referee Kevin Pollack signalled no goal.
“I turned around and saw the puck just sliding toward the goal,” Lundqvist said. “It’s almost like slow motion.
“You try to get back with your stick. It’s hard to see if it’s a goal or not.”
As tough as the save was, waiting for the ruling became excruciating to the helpless goalie.
“I looked up at the big TV there. Some replays it looked like a goal and some it looked like a save,” Lundqvist said. “There was still 20 seconds left and they still had a big chance after that. It felt like the game was over almost but you have to get back in the game.”
It was the second crucial call to go against the home team during an action-packed third period.
Hollweg drove Simon into the boards with a hard, clean check. Simon got up angrily and met Hollweg as they came together again. Hollweg fell to his back and rolled over on to his stomach by the boards.
“I just finished my check on the half wall,” Hollweg said. “I think he was a little fazed by it.
“I turned around, and the next thing I knew he’s winding up and hitting me in the face.”
Simon, who gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the second period, was ejected – slapped with a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure.
“I didn’t really have time to react to it,” Hollweg said. “It’s scary to your health but in the back of my mind I couldn’t believe he did it.”
Paul Mara scored a power-play goal for the Rangers to tie it in the second. The Rangers used a pair of 2-1 wins over their biggest rival to move into position for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers are 4-0-1 in their past five games and have moved into an eighth-place tie in the Eastern Conference with 15 games left. The seventh-place Islanders are just three points ahead despite failing to earn a point for just the third time in 21 games (12-3-6).
“It’s not easy to see a teammate lose his cool, and to have it happen with six minutes left in the game – it’s a tough one to swallow,” said Brendan Witt, a hard-hitting Islanders defenceman. “We were undisciplined, and it cost us.”
The Rangers also won 2-1 on Monday at Madison Square Garden but needed a shootout to beat Rick DiPietro, who made an Islanders-record 56 saves.
Both he and Lundqvist were stellar again, but for the second time in four nights Lundqvist – the Rangers’ second-year goalie – was one save better. Lundqvist made 30 stops, DiPietro blocked 28.
Notes: Rangers C Brandon Dubinsky, taking the place of injured forward Marcel Hossa, made his NHL debut. Hossa, who sprained a knee Monday against the Islanders, is expected to be out up to a month . . . The Islanders had their fifth home sellout of the season, including both meetings with the Rangers, who will visit twice more.