It has been a rough start to March for the Utica Comets.

Their struggles continued Saturday night when they ended a home-and-home series against the Springfield Thunderbirds with a 4-0 loss.

Rookie Samuel Montembeault stopped 21 shots and the Thunderbirds’ special teams accounted for three goals as Springfield won in front of sell-out crowd of 6,793 at the MassMutual Center in Massachusetts.

The Thunderbirds -- with 33 shots on goal -- got a pair of short-handed goals from Anthony Greco and Sam Kurker and added another on the power play from Alex Grenier in support of the 21-year-old Montembeault, who recorded his second shutout of the season.

Surging Springfield (28-28-4-1) -- which has nine-game (6-0-3-0) point streak -- is the third team to keep the Comets (30-21-6-4) off the scoreboard this month. It was the seventh loss in eight games for the Comets, who edged the Thunderbirds 3-2 in overtime on Friday in Utica. The Comets have been outscored 32-12 in the last eight games.

The regulation loss means the Comets – who hold the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division -- will host fifth-place Laval Rocket next Friday in Utica with a 16-point advantage in the standings. With help from a red-hot run over the first two months of 2018, the Comets -- who have 15 regular-season games remaining -- continue to inch closer to a playoff spot. Division-leading Toronto, helped by a win and Laval’s loss to Belleville on Saturday, was the first team to clinch a playoff spot.

Richard Bachman was solid, finishing with 29 saves, but he dropped his fourth consecutive start. He is 10-10-4 this season.

Despite the Comets getting the only power play of the first period, Springfield’s 11th-ranked penalty kill helped the Thunderbirds grab momentum in the second half of the frame. The Thunderbirds got on the board when an unchecked Greco finished an odd-man rush with Ryan Horvat by putting the puck over Bachman’s glove with 9:44 left.

The goal, which started with a turnover near the Utica blue line, was the sixth shorthanded allowed by the Comets this season.

Springfield expanded its lead with three goals in the second period with their special teams playing a big role.

First, Springfield’s 27th-ranked power-play unit made it 2-0 with 13:37 remaining. Grenier – the Comets record holder in a few categories – capped a tic-tac-toe play form the left circle with his 16th goal of the season.

It was the second power-play goal the Comets – ranked third on the penalty kill have allowed in the last six games.

The Comets had a couple opportunities later to get on the board when they had a pair of short 5-on-3 power plays for a total of 44 seconds. However, the Comets had trouble getting much going.

Instead, Springfield answered with goals 1:41 apart. First Jayce Hawryluk scored even-strength with 3:54 remaining and then Sam Kurker added the team’s second shorthanded goal of the game with 2:13 remaining when he scored on a nice feed from Chase Bailsy.

That would be it as the third period was mostly quiet with the Thunderbirds holding off any Comets attack.

Thunderbirds 4, Comets 0

Utica;0;0;0 - 0

Springfield;1;3;0 - 4

1st Period: 1, Springfield, Greco 24 (Horvat), 10:16 (SH). Penalties-Kurker Spr (tripping), 8:58.

2nd Period: 2, Springfield, Grenier 16 (Balisy, Bystrom), 6:23 (PP). 3, Springfield, Hawryluk 9 (Farnham, Valk), 16:06. 4, Springfield, Kurker 3 (Balisy), 17:47 (SH). Penalties-Cameranesi Uti (tripping), 5:12; Darcy Uti (double minor - high-sticking), 6:13; C. Brown Spr (slashing), 7:34; Cherniwchan Uti (cross-checking), 10:40; Schemitsch Spr (roughing, roughing), 10:40; Greco Spr (tripping), 12:16; Farnham Spr (roughing), 13:56; Farnham Spr (unsportsmanlike conduct - disputing decision), 16:06.

3rd Period: No Scoring.Penalties-Molino Uti (tripping), 18:18.

Shots on Goal-Utica 7-6-8-21. Springfield 15-11-7-33.

Power Play Opportunities-Utica 0 / 5; Springfield 1 / 4.

Goalies-Utica, Bachman 10-11-4 (33 shots-29 saves). Springfield, Montembeault 13-17-3 (21 shots-21 saves).

A-6,793.

Referees-Guillaume Labonte (35).

Linesmen-Brent Colby (7), Frank Murphy (29).