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Billington recalls fluke injury at Mellon Arena

Dave Fay and David Elfin

 PITTSBURGH - Yesterday several Washington Capitals, led by backup
 goalie Craig Billington, tried to recreate a memorable shot that took
 place at Mellon Arena last season.

 The shot left Billington lying on the cement floor of the arena
 with a welt on his head even though he wasn't in the game at the

 There is a Plexiglas curtain that surrounds the ice surface and
 protects fans from frozen, hard rubber pucks that travel at speeds in
 excess of 100 mph, depending on who is shooting, of course.

 Because the benches in Pittsburgh are so small, the spare goalies
 sit in the passageways each team takes to the ice from the dressing
 rooms. That leaves room for 18 very cramped skaters on the bench and
 little more. The spare goalies are at rink side, protected by the
 plastic shield.

 There are small holes bored in the Plexiglas, just large enough
 for a photographer to stick the lens of a camera through. A 3-inch
 puck could also fit through the hole, but there is very little wiggle

 Billington was sitting on a stool during the game, minding his own
 business, when his lights suddenly went out. A Pittsburgh player,
 trying to whip the puck around the boards to a teammate, accidentally
 shot it through the tiny opening, nailing Billington in the throat.
 Billington fell off his stool and then hit his head on the floor.

 The scene seems like something out of a cartoon, but it was far
 from funny at the time.

 Several players, including Billington, tried to duplicate the shot
 during the gameday skate. Not one was even close. It was a 1-in-a-
 million shot that could not be repeated.

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