EDMONTON, Alberta — The Sharks are going to find out right away how much momentum they can take from their first win in seven games.
On their heels of their 5-4 overtime victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday, the Sharks hit the road for crucials games against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday and the Calgary Flames on Friday. They finish the trip Sunday in Vancouver.
Those games, plus two more against the Alberta clubs next week, will go a long way in determining whether the Sharks have home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, or if they’ll have to start a series away from home, potentially in Edmonton or Calgary.
“It’s big to play those teams that you’re battling with. Both great teams. It’s going to be tough,” Brent Burns said after his overtime goal gave the Sharks their sixth victory in the last 14 games.
“But it’s good to start ramping it up. It’s only going to get harder. It is what it is. If you’re playing Florida or Carolina it would still be huge games. You just have to win.”
After a season-long six-game losing streak, the Sharks no longer control their own destiny in terms of winning the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks lead the Pacific with 95 points, two points up on both the Sharks and Oilers, and San Jose doesn’t play its Orange County rival again in the regular season.
But at least the Sharks won’t have to do any scoreboard watching for home-ice advantage in the first round if they can handle their business over the last six games. They also play two games against the Canucks at home on April 4.
“It’s one good game,” Sharks goalie Martin Jones said after the win Tuesday night. “Putting it in perspective, we lost six in a row. So we have to remember how hard it was to win tonight, the effort that it took and make sure we keep moving forward from that.”
The Sharks would like to tweak a few things from Tuesday’s win, such staying out of the penalty box and not allowing power play goals, and doing a better job of protecting a two-goal lead.
Still, the Sharks did score first for the first time in eight games, got some huge contributions from the third and fourth lines and saw Burns break through after a 16-game goal-less drought with a power play marker in OT. The game-winner was his 28th goal of the season, a team record for a defenseman.
“Burnzie is a huge piece for us. It’s no secret that he’s dried up a little bit lately,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “His importance to us over the season and where we’re sitting right now can’t be (overstated). He works so hard at his game, he cares so much, everybody was happy to see him get rewarded.”
DeBoer said he’d stick with the same lineup for Thursday’s game in Edmonton as Micheal Haley, eligible to come back after serving a one-game suspension, will presumably be a scratch.
It’s hard to argue against the status quo considering how the depth players performed against the Rangers.
The third line of Tomas Hertl, Jannik Hansen and Mikkel Boedker combined for five points. Hertl also won 14 of 18 faceoffs and picked up his first point in 13 games when he assisted on Hansen’s first goal as a Shark.
Chris Tierney had two goals and he and linemates Timo Meier and Joonas Donskoi combined for seven shots on goal and a handful of quality scoring chances. Melker Karlsson, who was on the second line with Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward, scored in his return after an eight-game absence.
Getting contributions from throughout the lineup must be part of the formula if the Sharks hope to absorb the loss of Logan Couture and earn one of the top two spots in the division.
Couture, who took a puck to the mouth last weekend in Nashville, did not travel with the Sharks to Edmonton and his status for the rest of the road trip is unknown.
Assuming the Sharks do all of that, their game should be where they want it to be for the start of the postseason, regardless of which arena it begins in.
“I think if we put in another effort like we did tonight,” Marleau said after Tuesday’s win, “good things will happen.”
Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at twitter.com/CurtisPashelka.