Erik Gustafsson catches fire for Capitals at exactly the right time

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Gustafsson catches fire for Caps at exactly the right time originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Erik Gustafsson is riding a seven-game point streak, has scored all six of his season goals over the last two weeks, and capped off his 2022 year by putting up three points and a +3 in Washington’s 9-2 victory over Montreal on New Year’s Eve.

What did he have to say about his torrid streak in the closing hours before 2023 commenced?

“It’s always fun to score goals.”

Turns out, Gustafsson’s fun has been infectious for the entire team. His contributions to the Capitals’ defensive unit have paved the way for the team's ascent up the Metropolitan division standings, as Washington has won 11 of its last 13 contests.

“You play more and more minutes every night, so it’s more consistent,” Gustafsson said of the Capitals’ system suiting his play style. “I’m just trying to play as simple as I can and follow up the rush.”

Washington has dealt with a string of injuries to both forward lines and defensive pairings this season. Most recently, John Carlson was placed on long-term injured reserve after taking a puck to the head last week. With Carlson out, Gustafsson’s role on this team has increased.

And Gustafsson has made the most of that newfound role, which sees him push the puck up the ice as Carlson typically does as an offensive-minded defenseman. He scored the Caps’ opening goal vs. the Canadiens on Saturday night (his sixth of the year), and followed it up with assists on a Nic Dowd goal in the second period and Alex Ovechkin’s strike in the third.

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With Carlson out, Gustafsson’s torrid streak couldn’t come at a better time.

“We have a couple guys on injured list right now, and we just gotta keep this train going as far as we can until the guys get back,” he said. “It’s gonna be fun to see those guys coming back and we [will try to reach] top in the standings. We just gotta try to stay up there the whole time and try to win every game we can…I’m just trying to take the opportunity as I can.”

So far, Gustafsson is on pace for his best statistical season since the 2018-19 campaign with Chicago, when he put up 17 goals and 43 assists. That was also the only season in his career in which he scored more than his current goal total of six.

If the 30-year-old were to register a point in Washington’s next game vs. Buffalo on Tuesday, he’d tie his career-high with a point in eight consecutive contests.