Uniondale, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Cam Atkinson spoiled the festivities at Nassau Coliseum, scoring in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 5-4 win over the Islanders in New York's final regular-season game at their longtime venue.
The Islanders appeared on the way to a celebratory tribute to the 43-year-old arena, the franchise's home since its inception in 1972-73. They owned a 4-3 lead with time winding down in the third period, but Scott Hartnell evened the score with 1:35 left and Alexander Wennberg kept the shootout going by beating Jaroslav Halak in the third round.
Of perhaps greater concern for the Islanders, Saturday's tough defeat gave Washington home-ice advantage for their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with New York (47-28-7), which will get to host at least two more games before it moves to the state-of-the-art Barclays Center in Brooklyn for next season.
Atkinson and Wennberg also scored in regulation for Columbus (42-35-5), which will miss out on the playoffs despite closing the regular season on a 12-0-1 tear. Hartnell added an assist and a busy Curtis McElhinney turned aside 48 shots in the win.
"I think it's indicative of what the plan was with this team at the beginning of the season," said McElhinney. "Unfortunately that wasn't the case with all the injuries and lineup changes, but it's nice to see us get the results here to close out the season."
Halak finished with 33 saves for the Islanders, while John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Nikolay Kulemin all had a goal and an assist.
"We had the opportunity to capitalize and we didn't take advantage of it," said Tavares. "You have to get over it and realize it's a new season, we have a tough test ahead regardless of if we have home ice or not."
Kulemin had sent the capacity crowd to its feet when he poked in the follow-up of Tavares' shot in transition to snap a 3-3 tie with 4:24 remaining in the third period. Those cheers soon turned into groans, however, after Hartnell slipped a well-placed wrister through traffic and into the net less than three minutes later to ultimately force extra time.
Tavares got the fans buzzing once again by beating McElhinney to begin the shootout, and Halak had New York on the verge of victory by stopping the first two Columbus skaters.
McElhinney cut off Kulemin's attempt in the third round, though, and Wennberg brought on a fourth with a rocket into the lower right corner of the New York net.
After Cal Clutterbuck's chance was steered aside by McElhinney, Atkinson got Halak to commit one way and slid the puck past the goaltender's left skate to deny the Islanders a costly extra point.
The teams were knotted at 1-1 after two periods, but both offenses came to life in the third. Enforcer Eric Boulton put New York ahead less than three minutes into the frame by knocking in the rebound of Nick Leddy's slap shot, and Tavares made it 3-1 only 55 seconds later with a quick one-timer off a give from Okposo.
Columbus then scored twice within a span of 1:34 to draw back even. Brandon Dubinsky's intended centering pass from behind the net struck Halak's skate and crossed the line near the midway mark of the third, and Wennberg drilled a feed from Marko Dano into an opening with 8:49 left to forge a 3-3 tie.
McElhinney came up with 20 saves during an impressive opening period in which Atkinson accounted for the lone goal, a second-chance power-play tally that came 9.9 seconds prior to the intermission.
The Islanders were finally able to get one past McElhinney with 8:58 to go in the second, as Josh Bailey fed Okposo from behind the net for a successful slot chance.
Tavares could have become the first Islander since Bryan Trottier in 1978-79 to lead the NHL in points, but Dallas' Jamie Benn notched four points in the Stars' season-ender against Nashville. The New York captain finished the campaign with 86, two more than Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and one fewer than Benn ... The Blue Jackets set a new franchise best by notching a point in a 13th straight game ... Dubinsky extended his point streak to eight games, during which he's put up four goals and seven assists ... Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic did not play due to a lower-body injury he sustained during Friday's 3-1 win at Pittsburgh ... The Islanders and Capitals split this season's four-game series, with three of those contests decided in either overtime or a shootout.