DENVER — Alexandar Georgiev has carried the Avalanche in his first season as an NHL starter. He leads the league with 17 wins since the calendar flipped to 2023, and is tied for the most shutouts all season following Monday’s perfect 27-save performance at Ball Arena.

Georgiev backstopped the Avs to a 5-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks to earn his fifth shutout. But all he wanted to do postgame was talk about forward Denis Malgin. The 26-year-old, who the Avalanche acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in December, recorded two goals and an assist — the most productive game of his NHL career.

“Really happy for him. He got a big opportunity and he makes great plays,” Georgiev said of Malgin. “He’s such a skilled player, plays smart, and gets rewarded for that. He’s one of the Russian-speaking guys here. So I’ve got to talk to him a lot. He’s also got the chance to play more minutes here.”

Malgin was elevated to Colorado’s top line after an upper-body injury removed forward Evan Rodrigues from the game. He already had a goal before that and head coach Jared Bednar sang his praises for what was another solid performance from the Swiss-born winger.

“He’s hard to play against and he doesn’t throw the puck away. He doesn’t turn the puck over. He’s heavy in traffic. He’s fearless. He’s competitive,” Bednar said. “Not just on the score sheet but he drew a penalty for being strong on the puck in D-zone coverage doing the right thing. Broke up a bunch of plays tracking back into the zone. And he’s equally as confident with the puck in the D-zone and the breakouts.

“He doesn’t throw the puck away. If you want it from him you gotta go take it from him. And obviously, he has the ability to play with skilled players. Seems to be getting better and better as the season goes on.”

The Avalanche (41-22-6, 88 points) have won their last six games to pull ahead of the idle Minnesota Wild for second in the Central Division. They also trail the No. 1 Dallas Stars by a point and have a game in hand. The Wild face the New Jersey Devils on the road Tuesday while the Stars host the Seattle Kraken later that night.

Georgiev is 17-6-1 since new years day, starting 24 of Colorado’s 34 games in the process. His .923 save percentage during that stretch is tied for fourth among goalies. Georgiev also pulled into a tie for second in the league with former teammate Igor Shesterkin with 32 wins on the season. He has a better save percentage and goals-against average than Shesterkin. Georgiev has won his last five starts.

“He did make a couple of huge saves off some rush opportunities, deflections at the top of the crease, and then second period we had a couple turnovers that led to some key scoring chances against and he was sharp,” Bednar said of Georgiev. “He just looked focused. Made all the saves he was supposed to make and then some.”

Kurtis MacDermid, Mikko Rantanen and Logan O’Connor had the other goals for Colorado, which has won 21-of-29 games since a disappointing loss to the lowly Blackhawks on Jan. 12 in the last meeting between the two clubs.

Malgin’s performance was a career highlight. He also tallied an assist on O’Connor’s goal, recording his first career three-point game. Following his two goals, Malgin has eight since joining the Avalanche, all of which have come over the past 18 games. Malgin has averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time over this stretch but has started to find the back of the net after getting stopped on numerous good opportunities early in his stint.

Only Nathan MacKinnon (14) and Rantanen (13) have more goals than Malgin since Feb. 14.

But don’t get caught calling his early parts of the season frustrating. Malgin is adamant he’s always remained confident that he’d eventually start scoring. He isn’t interested in using words like ‘frustrating’ to define his game.

“Why frustrating? I mean, why was it frustrating? I came over from Europe, I had good confidence. I made a team in Toronto right away, right? I think that’s hard with those forwards,” Malgin told me. “I felt good, I had chances every game to at least put one in and it just didn’t go in. I just tried to keep working and now maybe a little luck turned a little bit for me.”

MacDermid’s goal was his first of the season, returning to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 25. MacDermid missed each of the last 11 games after suffering a concussion in a fight with Calgary’s Milan Lucic nearly a month ago. It was his first career game-winning goal.

The Avs were doing an excellent job cycling the puck deep in the offensive zone. After a number of big saves from goalie Alex Stalock, MacDermid fired a shot wide but it ricocheted off Chicago’s Ian Mitchell and beat Stalock to make it 1-0. It stood as the only goal of the period despite numerous golden opportunities for the Avalanche. The biggest save from Stalock came on MacKinnon, robbing the superstar center on the rebound with his paddle.

Rantanen pushed the lead to three goals in the second period after firing the puck past Stalock from the circle on the power play. His 47th of the season is the third most in the NHL, trailing only Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (58) and Boston’s David Pastrnak (48). Rantanen has played in each of Colorado’s 69 games this season and could become just the third player in Avs history to reach the 50-goal mark.

His tally also extended his point streak to eight games. The Avs are 7-1-0 in that stretch.

“I mean, number one, he’s in the lineup every night,” Bednar said. “Number two is he finds a way to get on the scoresheet. It’s a great year for him.”