It says preseason on the schedule, but it sure didn't feel like it in the building.
Sunday's sold out game at NYCB Live felt like the opposite of an exhibition contest. The Stanley Cup and NHL Centennial Fan Arena were on hand, as were 13,917 fans, who almost all showed up hours before puck drop to tailgate for the matinee affair.
And for all that was different about Nassau Coliseum for the Islanders' preseason return, one thing was definitely the same - the noise.
It was loud. Fans clapped just for turning on the lights and it was a steady climb from there in the anticipation of the first game at the Coliseum since April of 2015. "Let's Go Islanders" rained down when the Islanders took the ice and the crowd went wild with John Tavares' OT winner.
Video: Tavares Scores OT Winner At Coliseum
"It had the atmosphere like most Saturday home games when we were here and pretty close to what we had in the playoffs," Tavares said. "It was a lot of fun. I was trying to knock the rust off, but at the same time take it in because it's such a great place."
Everyone took some time to soak it in. Fans tailgated for hours before puck drop, planting their flags in the parking lot and enjoying a beautiful 80-degree day. Even Jon Ledecky caught tailgate fever, riling up the fans in the Coliseum parking lot.
"It brought back a lot of memories," Islanders fan Derek O'Haire said. "It was a great feeling and it was only a few years ago, but feels like forever since we were able to do this."
Even the players absorbed the atmosphere. Josh Bailey, the longest-serving Islander - was the last one off the ice for warmups, throwing pucks to fans before heading down the tunnel. Tavares said he didn't plan for overtime, but savored getting a few extra minutes.
"We know what this place means to everybody involved with the Islanders. It was a lot of fun, there was a lot of emotion out there," Tavares said.
Video: Preseason Postgame: John Tavares
And if anyone suggested pregame that it was only a preseason game, that went out the window in the third period, when the cheers and groans sounded like a crowd living and dying with each play. Even if it didn't count in the standings, it meant something to see the barn rocking.
"It felt like an end of the season, or an early playoff game," Anders Lee said. "There was wonderful energy in the building and obviously the fans showed up and supported us. It's a fun way to start the year off."