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Bruins discover that Billington fills key role for Capitals

By Jim Greenidge, Globe Staff, 11/21/99

Craig Billington has been around. This is his 15th season and the Washington Capitals are the fifth team the 33-year-old goaltender has been with, including the Bruins in 1994-95 and 1995-96.

As the backup, Billington spells No. 1 netminder Olaf Kolzig once in a while and stops plenty of shots at
practice.

Billington, picked up from the Colorado Avalanche in July, hasn't played that much. The 33-year-old brought a rather high goals-against average of 3.80 into last night's game against the Bruins at the FleetCenter and a lofty 82.1 save percentage.

But Billington, in only his second start of the season, stopped all 28 shots the Bruins had on net, including 14 in the first period in the Capitals' 3-0 win.

It was his his 100th NHL victory, and his eighth shutout, the first since since blanking the Detroit Red Wings, 2-0, two years ago.

''The key is you've got to win, and we've been on a pretty good role, playing well getting some wins and playing with a lot more consistency,'' said Billington, who stopped the Bruins' five power-play chances.

''We played against a very good Bruins team, one that was 9-1-1 in their last 11 games, and that was a good challenge for us.''

Capitals coach Ron Wilson told Billington he would get this start, because it's one of the few back-to-back games Washington has had so far and because Billington once guarded the Bruins net, with a respectable 15-14-3 record.

''I've been nervous since I was four and first strapped on the pads,'' said Billington, whose team is 5-4-2 in its last 11 games.

''You just find a way to use your nerves. But the guys were just tremendous, it was a textbook road game and our guys deserve all the credit.

Billington has all sorts of respect for the Bruins, considering the team had the NHL's fourth best power play percentage at 20.7 percent coming into the game.

''Ray [Bourque] shoots the puck so well and the Bruins have very big forwards with [Dave] Andreychuk, [Jason] Allison, and [Anson] Carter and they go to the net well.''

It's an interesting background that Billington has.

''I've been in the minors, I've been a top-round pick, I've been put on waivers, I've been to an all-star game, I've been bought out, I've been picked up on waivers, a lot of things have happened,'' Billington said. ''I've been on an expansion team and I've been on a Stanley Cup contending team.''

This story ran on page D06 of the Boston Globe on 11/21/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.


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