DENVER — A bad night could’ve all but ended the Avalanche’s hopes of clinching the top seed in the Central Division. Colorado entered Saturday with the third-best points percentage in the division, trailing the top-seed Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars.

But the Wild dropped a 4-1 final in Vegas — just their second regulation loss in 21 games — and the Avs took care of business at Ball Arena, defeating the Stars 5-2 to gain ground on both teams. The Avalanche (45-24-6, 96 points) pulled ahead of both in points percentage. Their 96 points are tied with Dallas and one back of the division-leading Wild. Colorado has a game in hand on both.

“We’re obviously aware of it,” forward Logan O’Connor said of the out-of-town scoreboard. “It’s hard not to see it but we try to just control what we can control and that’s our 60-minute effort out there. So I think you definitely know what’s going on but you try not to be consumed by it.”

Nathan MacKinnon scored two goals, O’Connor added one and both Valeri Nichushkin and Mikko Rantanen had empty netters for the Avs, who never trailed at any point.

It was the exact type of response they needed following a disappointing 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday. Not only did the top guys rebound from a point-less showing three nights ago, but the depth was also crucial in getting past the Stars. Rantanen had three assists and four points to go along with MacKinnon’s two-goal performance, which included the game-winner.

“We rely on those guys a lot, especially with some of the guys that are out of the lineup and the lack of depth scoring some nights,” Bednar said of his top guys, who were all a plus-3 following a minus-3 showing against Minnesota. “I’m proud of them too, because I thought they played a really good game the other night, but they didn’t get on the sheet. It was a close game and it was a big game. This is another one of those games and they responded tonight and found a way to execute and make some plays and get on the board.”

O’Connor’s tally was assisted by linemate Andrew Cogliano. After receving the pass, he made a nice play to get past top defenseman Miro Heiskanen before beating goalie Jake Oettinger five-hole.

O’Connor now has a career-high in goals (nine) assists (17) and points (26).

“Cogs made a really, really good play in the neutral zone there,” O’Connor said. “That was a great pass by him and then I saw that (Heiskanen) had a bit of a bad gap so I figured I’d try and push it around and and then was fortunate to slide it by (Oettinger).”

Perhaps just as big a turning point as O’Connor’s goal, the Stars thought they had a goal with 10:51 remaining in regulation, which would’ve made it 3-2. But Avs coach Jared Bednar challenged for goalie interference because O’Connor was pushed into his goalie, Alexandar Georgiev, by a Stars player right before the goal. The result of the challenge would’ve either been a good goal and a power play for Dallas, which would’ve trailed by a goal. Or an overturned play to keep the Avs ahead by two.

The call ended up in Colorado’s favor after a quick review from the officials. And Dallas failed to score again until the Avs had already scored on one empty netter.

“The second I saw it I thought it was goalie interference,” head coach Jared Bednar said of his confidence in making the call.

MacKinnon opened the scoring midway through the first period. After negating Dallas’ attempt to clear the zone by stopping the puck at the blue line, MacKinnon sent the puck around the boards before accepting a pass from Rantanen wide open back door for the goal. He later added a power-play tally just 12 seconds before the second intermission. His 34 goals are two better than he had a season ago in one fewer game.

MacKinnon also leads the NHL with 21 goals in 27 games since the All-Star break.

“Some guys can produce early in the year when things are loose, it’s not that important. And then it gets tougher and tougher to produce as the checking game and the commitment level of every team that you’re playing goes up and then those guys will dry up offensively,” Bednar said. “Well, Nate’s the exact opposite. The tougher it gets the more he finds ways to be a big difference maker.”

Rantanen’s tally late in regulation — a bar down empty-net goal from his own blueline — was his 49th goal of the season. He’s just one away from becoming the third Avalanche player behind Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk to reach the 50-goal mark. Rantanen also tied his career-high in points (92) in the same amount of games it took him to get there a season ago (75).

“He can taste it,” Bednar said of Rantanen nearing the 50-goal plateau. “Last couple games, he’s squeezing his stick a little tight. He had some really good looks against Minny but didn’t capitalize. I just want him to relax and keep playing his game and I have a belief that he’ll get there and I really want him to get there.”

Georgiev was solid in goal, making 26 saves to earn his 35th win of the season. He’s second in the NHL behind Boston’s Linus Ullmark (37).

“We love playing in front of him. He’s obviously a passionate player,” O’Connor said of his netminder. “So he’s been really strong for us the whole year and I think even lately his game has blossomed more and more. And he’s obviously stacked the wins on top of that.”