Fans cheer before the Islanders play against the Pittsburgh Penguins in...

Fans cheer before the Islanders play against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, May 20, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

"We’re going to blow the ceiling off this place," Frank Kaplan of Brooklyn said. "They’re going to need a new roof. We might have to move into UBS [Arena] while it’s being constructed."

Thus did the world take another step toward normalcy on Thursday night, as Islanders fans finally gathered in large numbers for the team’s first home playoff game in two years, with the clock ticking on Nassau Coliseum’s postseason life.

For Kaplan and other fans gathered in the Coliseum parking lot before Game 3 of the first-round playoff series against the Penguins, there was no doubt in their minds they would make a difference.

"Tonight, you’re going to hear it, I guarantee," Michael Niciforo of East Islip said.

Hear it, the Islanders did, for both better and worse on a wild and crazy night in Uniondale, one that ended with the Penguins winning, 5-4, to take a 2-1 series lead.

What started as chants, songs and cheers by the end of the second period had turned into scattered boos. Then the third period brought fights, many goals and general chaos to the old barn, and the fans responded in kind.

"It was a fun game to play, that’s for sure," Anthony Beauvillier said. "Obviously, the crowd was into it and it was fun to have the fans back in the building and it obviously gave us a lot of energy and we felt that, for sure."

Said Scott Mayfield, "It felt like playoff hockey, that’s for sure."

The Islanders welcomed a season-high 6,800 paying customers for Game 3.

Before the game, coach Barry Trotz had said, "It shouldn’t be a friendly place to come in and have fun for the opposition.

"We just need positive energy from our fans, and I know they will bring it tonight. We’re going to need every ounce of them, and we’ll try to give every ounce of what we have."

The arena was split between sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans, with the unvaccinated given added space between them.

The segregation made for a strange dynamic, with the almost-full side of the arena for vaccinated fans naturally generating most of the noise and the unvaccinated side looking almost as sparse as in the 10% capacity days.

Many of the familiar sounds of the Coliseum were in evidence from the start. When Trotz came onto the ice, fans chanted his first name. They also chanted, "Let's go Islanders," sang the Josh Bailey song and booed the refs.

The place rocked when Mayfield tied it at 1 at 11:03 of the second period but a couple of minutes later, Jeff Carter beat Semyon Varlamov stick side.

It was a pattern that continued all night. Every time the Islanders seemed to gain momentum, they gave it back. Varlamov did not look sharp, and Trotz seemed less-than-pleased with his outing.

There were scattered boos when the Islanders left the ice down 3-1 after two periods, but the crowd got back into it when Cal Clutterbuck scored to make it 3-2 early in the third.

Shortly after Clutterbuck’s goal, there was an extended scrum involving multiple players, and the "Let’s go Islanders" chant sounded like one from a full house.

Meanwhile, fans chanted "Jar-ry" to try to rattle Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.

Then Beauvillier scored to tie it. Then Carter scored again to put the Penguins ahead. Then Clutterbuck scored again to tie it. Then Brandon Tanev scored with 3:36 left, batting the puck out of the air to beat Varlamov.

"We’re going to need all the positive vibes from our crowd," Trotz said afterward. "We might not off to the great start but stick with us.

"When we got rolling, they were a big part of it. It’s a great atmosphere, and our fans will help us get through this series and hopefully win the series."

They had better help with a win on Saturday, or it might be the last playoff game the Coliseum ever hosts.