The pall that hung over Nassau Coliseum since Thursday when Simon swung his stick and struck Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg in the face was still there Saturday. But once the puck dropped, the Islanders were all business in a 5-2 victory over the Capitals.
"It's obviously a tough situation," said Jason Blake, who scored two goals to reach a career high 35. "Chris is a great teammate.
"What happened happened. It's over. Whatever happens from the league, he's a professional, he's a grown man and he'll deal with it. We're behind him."
Simon was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday after his two-handed stick attack against Hollweg and served the first game of his banishment just hours after attending a disciplinary hearing in New York.
In a statement released during the game, Simon apologized for his actions and said he was diagnosed with a concussion as a result of a check from Hollweg that led to his harsh retaliation.
"There is no one that felt worse about what happened than he did," Blake said.
Marc-Andre Bergeron and Andy Hilbert each had a goal and assist, and the Islanders got back on the winning track. New York rebounded from a pair of 2-1 losses to the rival Rangers and sent the Capitals to their fifth regulation loss in seven games (0-5-2).
"We're trying to stay positive and keep our heads up," Washington center Brian Sutherby said. "We weren't scoring the last few games, but it wasn't like we weren't getting chances. It's nice to get a few."
Mike Sillinger also scored for the Islanders, who moved three points ahead of Carolina and the playoff cutoff in the Eastern Conference. New York is only six points behind fifth-place Pittsburgh.
"Everybody talks about the eighth spot, but the fourth spot is not too far ahead, either," coach Ted Nolan said. "Can we get higher? I think we can."
Rick DiPietro stopped 26 shots to reach 30 wins for the second straight season. He made his 17th consecutive start and played in his 200th NHL game. Blake sealed it with an empty-netter for the Islanders, who have earned points in 19 of 22 games (13-3-6).
Alexander Ovechkin and Donald Brashear scored 1:49 apart in the third period, but it wasn't enough for the Capitals. Washington, beaten 3-0 by Toronto and Carolina in its previous two games, avoided the franchise's first three-game shutout streak and snapped a goal-less drought of 176 minutes, 14 seconds.
The Islanders scored twice against Capitals goalie Brent Johnson in the first period and built a 4-0 lead through 40 minutes.
"We knew they were going to come out hard," Washington defenseman Brian Pothier said. "We tried to come out strong ourselves.
"It's tough to play from behind. We worked really hard as a group, and we're going to go that way until the game is over."
Sillinger got things going two minutes after the opening faceoff when he let go New York's first shot of the game from the top of the right circle -- during a 2-on-1 with Hilbert -- and fired it past Johnson for his 23rd goal and second against Washington in a week.
Hilbert scored with 7:19 left in the period, sending a drop pass from Bergeron off the right post, off Johnson and in. It was Hilbert's first goal in 19 games, dating to Jan. 27 against Buffalo.
The surge continued in the second period, the frame in which Johnson shined on Friday but couldn't duplicate. Johnson, making his 11th start in 12 games since regular goalie Olaf Kolzig went down with a knee injury, stopped 40 of 42 shots -- including 20 in the second period -- in the loss to Carolina.
Blake gave New York a 3-0 lead at 12:30. Bergeron then scored his 11th of the season, eighth on the power play, with 1:28 left in the period.
Ovechkin finally got the Caps out of their scoring drought 4:27 into the third, following up his own rebound to make it 4-1. He was less than a period away from matching his longest point skid of the season, having gone three straight games without a goal or assist. He went pointless in eight of the previous 11 games.
Brashear recorded a goal and a knockout in a matter of seconds. The brawny forward smacked a rebound past DiPietro at 6:16 for his first goal in 17 games. Former Caps defenseman Brendan Witt came toward him, drawing a shove from Brashear. Witt moved closer and took a left to the jaw from Brashear that flattened Witt on his stomach, drawing only a minor penalty.
"Brendan Witt was in my face all night, and I told him I was going to punch him," Brashear said. "It happens so quick, and then you think afterward."
|Despite the Chris Simon suspension lingering, the Isles stick together in a 5-2 win. (Getty Images)|
|NY Islanders (34-24-10) «||2||2||1||5|
New York Islanders Premier Jersey - Black
$124.95 Shop Now!
|02:00||Mike Sillinger (23), Slap Shot - Assists: Andy Hilbert, Brendan Witt|
|12:41||Andy Hilbert (7), Slap Shot - Assists: Marc-Andre Bergeron, Trent Hunter|
|12:30||Jason Blake (34), Backhand Shot - Assists: Ryan Smyth, Randy Robitaille|
|18:32||Power Play - Marc-Andre Bergeron (11), Slap Shot - Assists: Tom Poti, Mike Sillinger|
|04:27||Alex Ovechkin (40), Slap Shot - Assists: Jiri Novotny, Shaone Morrisonn|
|06:16||Donald Brashear (3), Wrist Shot - Assists: Milan Jurcina, Shaone Morrisonn|
|19:11||Jason Blake (35), Empty Net - Assists: Randy Robitaille, Ryan Smyth|
|04:58||Hill: Tripping - 2 min.|
|05:44||Yashin: Interference - 2 min.|
|08:59||Sutherby: Interference - 2 min.|
|17:23||Morrisonn: Interference - 2 min.|
|18:52||Morrisonn: Tripping - 2 min.|
|06:16||Brashear: Roughing - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|