Biller holds off Montreal
in relief (4/5/96)
Billington seizes the moment
Craig Billington clearly dislikes sitting on the Bruins' bench
night after night with 40 pounds of goaltending equipment strapped
to his slender frame.
He's a competitor who believes he is good enough to be a No. 1
goalie. But he also knows his role on the Bruins is backing up
His last start was Feb. 7 when he lost, 2-1, in Buffalo. Before
last night, his previous appearance was a 14-minute stint March
5 against the Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y., with no decision.
Last night, the unthinkable happened. Ranford took a shot off
the right knee and went down like a wounded calf. Suddenly, Billington,
the forgotten man, was pressed into service at the FleetCenter
in a crucial game against Montreal.
The Habs were leading 2-1 at 4:35 of the second period. At that
precise moment it should have become evident to Bruins management
that it would have been wiser for Billington to have started at
some point during the four-game-in-five-night stretch that ended
Billington took his bosses off the hook, however, handling 14
of the 15 shots he faced in his 40:25 stint. He came within 24.3
seconds of getting the relief win, but succumbed to a shorthanded
breakaway goal by Saku Koivu and settled for a 3-3 tie.
It's hard to believe there's a goaltender in the NHL who could
have done a better job than Billington did last night.
"The mental part is something that is extremely challenging,"
said Billington, who added that he considered coming out of the
crease more aggressively, but stayed back because Koivu is so
"For all athletes who are put in a position where they're
not going to see a lot of gametime, you have to take pride in
it," Billington said. "You don't have to like it, you
have to accept it. That's what I do."
Billington, 29, was extraordinary under the circumstances. The
5-foot-10 170-pounder stopped Pierre Turgeon with a pad save less
than five minutes after he came in and stoned Brian Savage on
a breakaway 2:30 into the third.
He made two big stops in the final seconds of overtime. He did
not look like a goalie who was fighting the puck or his role.
"I guess it comes from the way you approach it," he
said. "I believe in life everything is attitude. You have
to find the attitude that will allow you to succeed under different
conditions. Certainly the position I have here, I understand it.
I may not like it, but if I don't accept it I'm not going to be
any good when I do play.
"I know how good I am. A belief in yourself is something
that allows you to get through these things. Perhaps because I've
played for so long and under so many different situations I can
feed from them. I think that's something I do."
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