Though to Kapanen, it felt like a full house was sharing in the celebration.
"It was unbelievable," said the Penguins winger, who scored twice in the contest. "It's been a while since we played in front of fans, and even though there was 2,800 tonight, it felt like there was 20,000. So it was a great boost from them."
Tonight marked the first time since March 8, 2020 that Penguins fans were permitted back in the building after the team was given permission to reopen at 15% capacity. And they filled that capacity, marking the Penguins' 610th consecutive sellout.
"I think it just creates the environment that we're all accustomed to, that we're all longing for, that we haven't had in a long time," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "To have some fans in the building, I know our players were fired up for it. And you get energy from it. I think our guys got some juice from the crowd."
They made their voices heard all night long, starting with warmups. Evgeni Malkin is always the last player to leave the ice, and has a routine where he shoots a puck into the empty net before collecting another one that he softly puts off the foot of head athletic trainer Chris Stewart. He did so to loud cheers from the crowd.
As the clock ticked down to puck drop, PA announcer Ryan Mill got on the microphone to say, "Before we get started, just want to say welcome back, everybody. Glad you're here."
The Flyers then skated out to loud and emphatic boos, while the Penguins were greeted with excitement as the fans got on their feet for the first time in a long time to welcome their team to the ice.
"It was nice," winger Bryan Rust said. "Even just coming out for warmups and seeing how many people were already there for warmups, and then to come out there for the first period - it was definitely a welcome change, for sure."
The fans were certainly glad to see Jeff Jimerson make his triumphant return as well. The Penguins' anthem singer performed in person for the first time since March 8, as the team had been using a recording prior to tonight. He wore a mask and sang from a designated spot in the bowl.
And before the puck officially dropped, Mill had a few final words for the fans on behalf of both teams.
"Penguins fans, welcome back," Mill said. "Prior to puck drop, the Penguins and Flyers want to salute you. The important role you play in our game has been noticeably absent, and we are thrilled that you're back - right where you belong."
From there, the Penguins certainly gave them plenty to cheer about in tonight's game - which was quite the feat, given the circumstances surrounding it all. They played without Sidney Crosby, who was unavailable for the game due to being placed on the NHL's COVID Related Absences List, after not taking the ice since Sunday following a day off Monday and the cancellation of their skate today.
"The staff did a tremendous job of getting us ready and getting us prepared for tonight and I thought the team really stepped up today," Kapanen said. "I thought we played one of our more complete games."
Kapanen was by far the Penguins' best skater tonight. He scored twice, once on a beautiful breakaway goal where he went for the fake slapshot before snapping the puck through Carter Hart's five-hole, and once into the open net to finish off a pretty passing sequence on the power play.
Kapanen nearly completed the hat trick in the second period, but Hart robbed him with an unbelievable save. He also set up Jared McCann for a breakaway chance of his own en route to being named the night's First Star, while Tristan Jarry earned the Second Star after he performed some heroics as well.
After withstanding quite the barrage from the Flyers in the opening frame, he continued to be a difference-maker the rest of the night. His best save came in the second period on James van Riemsdyk, and it prompted chants of "JARRY! JARRY!" Jarry said afterward that he heard his name, and appreciated the support.
"I think that's part of Penguins hockey is having them there and having them behind us, so you see how much it changes when there are fans in the crowd," Jarry said. "It's a different feeling. Whenever you step on the ice and have them stand and cheer, I think that motivates us that much more. We love playing in Pittsburgh and we love playing in front of them."
While Kapanen and Jarry were Pittsburgh's two best players, the team got some decent performances throughout the rest of the lineup as well. The Penguins dominated special teams, scoring that power-play goal and going a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, and spread out the offense.
And the entire time, the Penguins faithful was there cheering them on, and the players skated to center ice and saluted them before heading into the locker room.
"We've got such great support," Sullivan said. "We've got such great fans. I know our players and coaching staff and management and ownership are so appreciative of the support that we get. it just creates a different environment, and we haven't had that environment in a long time. To have a semblance of normalcy I think was so welcoming for all of us, and we're hopeful that it's only going to get better here, that we can start to put more capacity in the building.
"Because there's nothing better, as a player, than playing in front of a packed house. And our guys, quite honestly, are accustomed to that. They're used to that. And it's fun. It makes the experience so much better. To have that tonight was welcoming for our players, and it certainly gave us a burst of energy."