Skilled Salmela rewarded with OT winner
His overtime tally on Saturday lifted the Devils to a 3-2 overtime win over the Islanders, propelling New Jersey within six points of a playoff spot.
Though Salmela had just four assists in his previous 33 games, his teammates weren’t surprised by the Finnish defenseman’s offensive flash.
“I don’t know he doesn’t have more goals, actually,” said Martin Brodeur. “He’s a pretty skilled player. He’s been playing some good hockey and definitely getting rewarded with a big overtime goal is really nice for him and really nice for us to see that from him.”
Salmela was reacquired by New Jersey in last season’s Ilya Kovalchuk trade. He needed knee surgery to repair an injury he sustained in international play during the offseason and missed the first 27 games of the season.
“He wasn’t here, wasn’t among the regulars, was not even dressing,” Jacques Lemaire said. “Then we got injuries, he got back in and played well.”
Lemaire thinks Saturday’s goal could be a preview of what’s yet to come from the 26-year-old blueliner.
“He’s capable of playing like this,” the coach said. “But at a certain time he’s losing it. He wants to make it more complicated and he gets in trouble. When he keeps it simple, he’s got great mobility, good puck control – he’s got a good shot.”
Jacob Josefson scored his first NHL goal in the first period, then admired Salmela's winner in OT.
"It was great," Josefson said. "A really good shot, top shelf. Couldn’t have been prettier."