ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The San Antonio Rampage seem to have righted their ship.
The American Hockey League affiliate of the Florida Panthers wrapped up a 4-1-0 road trip on Wednesday with a 4-0 victory over the Abbotsford Heat.
That completed a two-game sweep of first-place Abbotsford after the Rampage also downed the Heat 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday.
Prior to the road trip, the Rampage (8-11-3) went eight games without a victory, dropping to last place in the league.
"We kind of hit rock bottom there," San Antonio forward Scott Timmins said. "We were doing a lot of the right things and just had to keep calm with it. A lot of those losses were by one-goal."
The turnaround was helped in part by goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
"(It) started at home before the road trip but (we) just couldn't get the win against Abbotsford," Markstrom said. "We played a great game but they tied it up with 10 seconds left (and then lost in a shootout). When we went to Rochester we got that win finally after eight straight losses. We needed to get out of bad habits but after that we've been playing great. This whole road trip has been really successful for us. Now we can all take a breath without the pressure of the losses building up."
The Swedish netminder made 36 saves for his first shutout of the season. He made several key saves to keep his team in control, despite only having 14 shots on goal.
"We gave up a lot of shots but thank God we've got Marky back there," Timmins said. "But we usually give up one shot and not a lot of second chances."
"When you come here for a first-place team, you've got to be up for these games," Timmins said. "It wasn't pretty but we found a way to win on the road."
Leland Irving, who made his first start in more than two weeks, stopped just 5-of-8 shots for Abbotsford (13-4-5) before getting the hook in favour of Danny Taylor.
The Rampage opened the scoring off a Heat turnover for the second consecutive night. Brady Lamb threw a pass in front of his own net to defence partner Steve McCarthy, who could only clear it to the top of the faceoff circle, where Timmins blasted a slapshot past Irving at 4:29.
“I just came off the bench ... and we caused a turnover," Timmins said. "It wasn't any way I drew it up but I'll take them any time the red light goes on."
The visitors made it 2-0 at 7:06 when Jonathan Hazen chipped the puck past a Heat defender to a streaking Vaive, who beat Irving blocker side with a wrist shot for his first of the season.
Howden made it 3-0 on a 2-on-1 at 5:30 of the second. He sped down the left side and used Timmins as a decoy before beating Irving five-hole for his fifth of the year.
That was the end of the night for Irving but the Heat came alive after the goalie switch. Abbotsford created a slew of scoring chances and outshot the Rampage 16-3 in the second period, but Markstrom was up to the task. His best save came off a one-timer from Ben Street on a power play with two minutes to play in the second.
"That was no surprise to me," said Timmins, who has played the last three seasons with Markstrom. "Whenever we have breakdowns he always seems to make the miraculous save. Those backdoor tap-ins that usually do go in, he finds a way to save them and that gives us a huge boost on the bench."
Howden then finished things off in the third with an empty-net goal with just under two minutes to play.
Despite the loss, the sentiment in the Abbotsford dressing room was mostly positive.
"Tonight's score isn't really an indication of the how we played," defenceman Chris Breen said. "We played a solid game. We just didn't get a couple bounces and they capitalized on their opportunities."
San Antonio, which sits 12th in the Western Conference, still has a steep climb in the standings despite the successful road trip.
"You have to start somewhere," Markstrom said. "We can't just switch spots with Abbotsford. We've got to bring this back home this weekend and play hard. We've got to outwork teams."