Folks who enjoy fancy figures on ice are familiar with the Hamill Camel. Those fanatics whose preferences lean toward Washington Capitals' hockey get their kicks from a Gustie.

It was a vintage Gustie, as performed by rookie Bengt Gustafsson, that carried the Capitals to their third straight success yesterday, a 3-1 decision over the New York Islanders.

At the finish, when the Capitals lined up to congratulate each other, they were tied with Vancouver for 16th place, the final playoff position. By night's end, however, they were back in 18th, one point behind vancouver and Quebec. There was also concern about Bob Sirois, to be X-rayed today for a possible broken rib, and such an eventuality obviously would tarnish that dazzling victory, highlighted by Gustafsson's move.

Barely two minutes after a freak goal by the Islanders' Mike Bossy had created a 1-1 tie, Gustafsson grabbed the puck in center ice. He whirled around ex Capital Gord Lane at the New York blue line, pirouetted past Bob Lorimer and fired a backhand shot at goalie Chico Resch. Although Resch blocked it, Rolf Edberg was there to net the rebound and Washington, with 7:05 remaining, was ahead to stay.

"He had nobody else to pass to and besides he wanted to say hello to Gord Lane," said Coach Gary Green, who earlier had ordered Gustafsson to stop trying to embarrass so many defenders, because he was encouraging frustrated retribution.

"I have to try something new," said Gustafsson, smiling in that baby faced manner that has endeared him to Capitals' fans, if not opposing defensemen. "He (Lorimer) hit me pretty good. I was glad I could keep my balance."

"That was an easy one," said Edberg, who was scoring his 17th goal. "I just had to put it over the line. Gus and I work well together. That time, when he got the puck, I went with him. It was fun to come back from 1-1. I was really happy this time."

The Capitals maintained their intensity to the finish, limiting New York to only two shots in the third period. The unit of Mike Gartner, Ryan Walter, Paul Mulvey, Pierre Bouchard and Pat Ribble was so effective in its last-minute forechecking that the Islanders were unable to lift Resch for a sixth skater. Finally, Gartner ripped a 40-footer past Resch, with Walter screening, to wrap it up with only 18 seconds on the clock.

It was the 30th goal for Gartner, who said, "I wanted to get 30 this year and I didn't know whether I could. Walt and Mo (Mulvey) have helped me, getting me the puck and keeping the pressure on the goalie."

If there is a more dedicated athlete than Walter, he is hiding somewhere, which is sort of what Walter was doing after the game. Usually accessible to the media ad infinitum, he was nowhere to be seen. Finally located in the weight room, Walter was wearing boxing gloves, punching the bag and muttering, "I'll get him next time."

"Him" was the Islanders' Bob Nystrom, who dealt Walter a pretty good beating midway through the second period. Walter had boarded Lane, Mulvey also belted the ex-Cap, then Walter added an extra bump. Nystrom came in with stick high, took on Walter and won the fight. He probably lost the war, though.

Until that melee, with Nystrom earning an extra two minutes for high sticking, the Islanders had dominated play in the second period, piling up a 10-2 edge in shots and forcing goalie Wayne Stephenson, who has a sore back to perform some painful acrobatics.

The momentum shifted during the power play and Green also was forced to juggle his lines with Walter in the box. Out came Wes Jarvis for his only regular shift other than penalty killing, of the game. Naturally, Jarvis scored.

Resch juggled a shot by Mark Lofthouse and dropped the puck at his feet. Jarvis swooped in and collected his 11th goal, on only 41 shots while seeing very limited action.

"I saw that open net and I just streaked," Jarvis said. "It hit the inside of his pad and just lay there and he fell back and sort of shoved it out to me. I just lifted it in there."

It seemed destined to wind up 1-0, with New York unable to test Stephenson even once during the first 10 minutes of the third period. Then Bossy fired a high shot off the glass behind Stephenson. The puck caromed back, past Gartner, to Bossy, who quickly netted his 47th goal.

Two minutes later it was Gustie time, then the Capitals made sure there would be no more freak goals.

"Everybody was doing his job," Green said. "From the standpoint of discipline, good intensity, positional play, this was the best all-round game since I've been here. There was a lot of pressure on us. This is the closest we've been to a playoff spot since we opened the season. We're seeing sunshine for the first time ever, we've been in darkness so long."

The ultimate tributes to the Capitals came from the opposition. For one thing, the Islanders' No. 1 line of Bryan Trottier, Bossy and Garry Howatt was held out for much of the contest, skating only once in the first six shifts and just three shifts in the first period, as Coach Al Arbour tried to keep Gartner, Walter and Mulvey on the bench.

Afterward Resch said, "Second effort was the name of the game, on a couple of their goals and a couple we didn't score. They (the Capitals) impress me, because they can play a couple of games. They were close checking when it was zero zero and when the game opened up, they played that way, too.

"I like this team. They've got a lot of enthusiasm going and they're exciting to watch. They deserved to win."