The New Jersey Devils found an unlikely star in Anssi Salmela to sustain their playoff drive.
The defenseman scored his first goal of the season 3:09 into overtime in the Devils’ 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Salmela took a feed from Mattias Tedenby and drilled a shot past Al Montoya as the Devils improved to 22-3-2 in their last 27 games.
Not a bad night for a player who missed 27 games with a knee injury, couldn’t crack the lineup when he returned, and was unclaimed when placed on waivers in January.
“That is crazy,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said of Salmela’s season. “He was not among the regulars. He was not even dressing. Then we had injuries. He got back in and has played well. He’s capable of playing like this. At a certain time, he was losing it, making it more complicated, and he got in trouble. When he keeps it simple, he’s got great mobility, good puck control, a good shot and he can play well defensively.”
Salmela’s fourth NHL goal was a huge relief.
“I think he’s more pleased now,” Salmela said of Lemaire. “I’ve been playing, so I think it’s good, a little bit simpler. We are more together in our game plan. I had so many chances and I feel like I have wasted a lot of opportunities. You feel bad when you’re not scoring and you have chances.”