The New York Rangers reacted angrily yesterday to a crushing blow to the head of NHL all-star forward Tomas Sandstrom by Philadelphia's Dave Brown in Monday night's game in Madison Square Garden, with Coach Michel Bergeron saying Brown "didn't just try to hurt him, he tried to kill him."

"If he wasn't trying for the face, then there isn't a steer in Texas," Rangers General Manager Phil Esposito said. "He was trying for the face; there's no doubt about it because if he's going to cross-check, he could have gotten him under the arms, on the shoulders, on the biceps, but he went right after the face."

Sandstrom hit the ice with a thud, had to be helped off and was hospitalized overnight, but was expected to be released last night.

"The hospital says he had no post-concussion condition and no fractured jaw," a Rangers spokesman said.

"I've been coaching for eight years in the league now and I've seen many things in hockey, but I've never seen anything like that," Bergeron said of the third-period incident during the 2-2 tie. "If he did the same thing on the street tonight, he'd get 10 years in jail."

Brown was assessed a match penalty for a deliberate attempt to injure and was ejected from the game. Match penalties get an automatic review by Brian O'Neill, executive vice president of the NHL in Montreal, and a decision will be announced in a few days.

Bergeron said Brown should be suspended more than the automatic three games for a match penalty -- "he should be suspended for a year."

The incident happened after play had stopped near the Flyers' net, and Brown said, "I'm just trying to move him away from the goal. If he scores, and I'm the closest guy, then it's my fault. I was just doing my job."

Ironically, the incident occurred while Rangers fans were waving banners reading, "The Philly Slasher Returns." The message was for Ron Hextall, making his season debut after ending an eight-game suspension for stick-slashing in last season's Stanley Cup finals.