- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001


DETROIT The Washington Capitals are on a two-game losing streak. Both losses have come in overtime, and both have produced unexpected bonuses.
Last night, Detroit captain Steve Yzerman scored 11 seconds into overtime to give the Red Wings a 2-1 victory, but all the Caps needed was the point that goes with reaching overtime to capture the Southeast Division title for the second straight season.
Friday night the Caps lost 4-3 to Carolina, but the point gained there was enough to guarantee Washington a playoff berth. The Hurricanes now have to concentrate on holding off the Boston Bruins for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The big story last night was backup goalie Craig Billington, who said he would sound arrogant if he acknowledged that it was the best performance of his lengthy career. Even if it wasn't his best, he was the game's top star in a losing effort.
"We should have won 1-0," coach Ron Wilson said jokingly. "He let that one in; I was ready to kill him. And he didn't score either. He had a couple opportunities to take off with the puck, stick-handle through the other team. And he should have been better along the boards, getting the hard-arounds that our defensemen were throwing. Our wingers weren't there, so Billington should have been in position to do that, too."
Obviously, Wilson implied Billington didn't get a lot of help in nearly beating Detroit single-handedly. The offense was downright offensive, and the power play was almost nonexistent; only the penalty-killers did their jobs, except in overtime.
"Billington was the only guy who showed up tonight and gave the effort that was needed," Wilson said. "My hat's off to him. He's come up with some heroic efforts for us in the couple years he's been here. I'm proud of him and happy for him that he was in goal when we won the Southeast Division title. That's something he can tell his grandchildren."
He has to have children of his own first, but that's another story. Billington is expected to play one more game before the Caps open the playoffs sometime next week, with Olie Kolzig picking up the remainder as he tunes up for the postseason.
Detroit entered the game in exactly the same situation as the Caps last night, except with the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division. When the game went into overtime, the Red Wings had the point they needed to nail down the division title.
Washington fell behind on the shot counter 10-1 before coming out of its catnap and playing reasonably well during the last 10 minutes of the first period. But that appeared to be the high point. The offense, with all four lines reconfigured, never got on track. The power play, with some realigned units and some older ones, was never a factor.
The penalty killers had gone 6-for-6 until overtime started, when Yzerman was left alone at the top of the left circle. He unloaded the 42nd shot on Billington, beating him on the stick side for the win.
The Red Wings are 17-3-5 overall since the Feb. 4 All-Star break.
"Well, it is Stevie's building, and I didn't want all those [19,995] fans to go home disappointed," Billington said, almost with a straight face. "… It was certainly great to get in there and to make a contribution. That was the important part, doing something for the team. Tonight we got a point in a building where I don't think they'd lost in 16 or so games [15-0-2]. Hey, they're a very good team, they're excellent, so to get a point out of tonight was excellent and a lot of fun. At least that's the way I look at it."
Kris Draper redirected a Larry Murphy slap shot in the second period for the first Detroit goal, and Dmitri Khristich lifted a rebound into the top right corner for the lone Caps' score with nine minutes left in regulation.

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