Islanders fans watch the second period of action at the...

Islanders fans watch the second period of action at the new home of the Islanders at UBS Arena in Elmont on Nov. 20, 2021.  Credit: Craig Ruttle

Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted? Oh, right, it’s hockey season!

And the Islanders, it turns out, still are National Hockey League members in good standing.

That was confirmed on Thursday night when they took the ice at UBS Arena and beat the Devils, 3-2, in their third game since Dec. 19, their first since Jan. 1 and their league-low 29th overall.

For the players, it was a celebration, one embodied by Mathew Barzal’s emotional reaction when he scored the game-winner with 4:53 remaining.

Soon the Islanders were gathering at mid-ice to wave thanks to their fans, for whom the occasion was one of mixed emotions.

Stacie Moisa of Commack, whose family has had season tickets since 1973 and who was wearing a signed Bobby Nystrom jersey, summed it up well before the game.

The incredulity over what has occurred to this point. The concern over what is to come. The relief over seeing hockey again.

"This is a crazy season," she said. "You could not make this up if you tried."

Moisa said she is worried about the players’ health given the busy schedule to come — not that we know exactly what that schedule is yet — after a season of stops and starts and extensive absences.

"Now even Trotz is out; it’s like, who’s next?" she said. "You come down to the game and it’s like, who’s that? It’s like our AHL team."

But it was at that point in our chat that Moisa got to the heart of the matter, and to the message of this essay.

In essence: What’s done is done, and the Islanders forever will be a team that was in last place in the middle of January.

No one asks you to be happy about that. But it is OK to look forward to this: Games, games and more games between now and late April.

The Islanders might well fall short in their quest to climb out of their ditch and reach the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. But they also might succeed, and if they do, imagine the ride that will be.

They have the talent and resume to pull this off, so why not dream big?

The quest began with a feel-good victory that featured goals by Josh Bailey (complete with fans singing his signature song), newly minted All-Star Adam Pelech and fan favorite Barzal, who celebrated his game-winner as if it were an overtime playoff goal.

Who could blame him? "Just let all that emotion out," he said. "Let 12 days of emotion out, so it felt good."

The players have been clear-eyed about the math problem they face in the standings. But all they can do is try to win when told to play, which lately has not been often.

"Tonight was a big one; it’s a team we have to catch," Zach Parise said.

That’s true, but they also are looking up at every other team in the Metropolitan Division.

The Islanders were playing for the first time since the NHL postponed their entire four-game trip to the Pacific Northwest because of attendance restrictions in Canada.

It merely was the latest curveball thrown at them this season. Does that stink for the team and its fans? Sure it does. Does that matter now? Nope.

Moisa said she loves the new arena, loves the current owners and is back to having fun as a fan again, even if 2021-22 has challenged that.

"The last few years have been great," she said. "This year, not so much. But I can’t get mad at our boys. I mean, you can’t make this up. This is just nuts. But we’re back.

"We’ll see what we’ve got. We’ve got a long stretch ahead of us. Think positive."