John Carlson scores as Capitals beat Blackhawks 6-1

John Carlson had a goal and an assist in his return from a fractured skull, and the Washington Capitals beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 on Thursday night.

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom also had a goal and an assist, helping Washington (34-31-8) move within four points of Pittsburgh for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins were at Dallas on Thursday night.

Nikita Zaitsev scored for Chicago in the third period, and Anton Khudobin made 22 saves in his first NHL game since Jan. 15, 2022, with Dallas. It was Zaitsev’s first goal since April 3 for Ottawa.

The Blackhawks went 0 for 5 on the power play in their third straight loss. They were coming off a 5-0 loss at Colorado on Monday night.

Next up for Chicago is Saturday at Minnesota before hosting Vancouver on Sunday night in its annual Pride game. The organization has decided against wearing special warmup jerseys to commemorate Pride night, citing an anti-gay Kremlin law that could imperil Russian athletes when they return home.

Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and Khudobin and forward Philipp Kurashev also have connections to the country.

The Capitals got off to a strong start for the second straight game, scoring twice in the first period.

Conor Sheary scored for the second straight game when he capitalized on a turnover by Khudobin. Anthony Mantha then made it 2-0 when he scored on a quick shot from the slot at 10:33.

It was Mantha’s second goal in 2023 and No. 11 overall on the season. It also was his first goal since back-to-back healthy scratches.

With Washington up 5-1 late in the third, Ovechkin stole the puck from Seth Jones and converted a breakaway for his 41st goal of the season.

Nic Dowd also scored for Washington, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 27 shots in his return from an upper-body injury.


Ovechkin extended his point streak to six games. ... Blackhawks forward Colin Blackwell had season-ending sports hernia surgery. ... Kurashev departed after taking a hit from Tom Wilson in the first period.


Blackhawks: Visit the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

Capitals: Visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.