DENVER — The defending Stanley Cup champions continue to pile on wins and the Western Conference has seemingly had no answer.

Colorado (33-19-5) won its fifth straight game on Saturday, defeating the Calgary Flames 4-1 at Ball Arena in Nazem Kadri’s first game back since departing as a free agent and signing a lucrative long-term contract with his new club. At the first T.V. commercial break, Kadri received a lengthy standing ovation from the Ball Arena crowd. The fans stood and cheered throughout the entire tribute video, which ended with a visibly emotional Kadri waving to Avalanche faithful while holding his hand to his heart. It was the third time he’d played his former teammates — the first two both taking place in Calgary.

“I got goosebumps for sure watching all those clips,” superstar center Nathan MacKinnon said of Kadri’s tribute video.

Kadri recorded an assist on the lone Flames tally.

“The video was awesome. I was starting to get a little emotional on the bench. I had goosebumps,” head coach Jared Bednar added. “I’ve got a soft spot for Naz. Obviously a great player. We miss him and he’s having a great year in Calgary so wish him the best of luck and happy for him to get the big deal.”

MacKinnon once again opened the scoring for the Avs, who finished their three sets of back-to-backs 5-0-1. Alex Newhook, Mikko Rantanen and Denis Malgin also scored, lifting Colorado into second place in the Central Division. It trails the Dallas Stars by three points with two games in hand.

“We’re playing really good hockey lately,” said goalie Alexandar Georgiev. “It’s been a lot of fun to climb the standings.”

Colorado got off to a hot start again. MacKinnon fired a shot past goalie Jacob Markstrom just 3:05 into the game on the Avs’ first shot. MacKinnon’s 21st of the season was also his eighth in nine games since the All-Star break. He has goals in all but two games since and also has eight assists in that same stretch.

It took more than five minutes for the next Avs shot. Newhook received a pass from Logan O’Connor off the boards, putting it past Markstrom to put the Avalanche up 2-0 on two shots. The Avs also had four goals on their first five shots against Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck on Friday. They’ve scored first in 15 of the last 17 games (13-2-2) after struggling in the first period for a large chunk of the season before that.

“Only the players can get themselves ready from the drop of the puck,” Bednar said. “It’s what’s said in the room. It’s the leadership. It’s the commitment. It’s the focus. It’s what the league requires at this time of year in order to win.”

The power play pitched in early in the second period. Forward Valeri Nichushkin wired home a one-timer from the circle, placing it perfectly over the shoulder of Markstrom to make it 3-0. The replay later showed it hit Rantanen on the way in. Leading the Avs in goals, Rantanen’s 38th of the season is the fourth most in the NHL.

Later in the second, two of the NHL’s two remaining heavyweights dropped the gloves. Calgary’s Milan Lucic got the better of Colorado’s Kurtis MacDermid, dropping him after a lengthy bout. The Flames went on the power play on the ensuing play, and capitalized on the man advantage to pull within two goals. Tyler Toffoli scored on a play that started on Kadri’s stick.

MacDermid was pulled from the game by the concussion spotter following the tilt and did not return. Both teams continued to go at each other in what turned into a physical battle the rest of the way.

Calgary controlled the remainder of the second period but was unable to beat Georgiev a second time. The Flames bested the Avs in shots in the middle frame, holding an 18-11 advantage.

Rather than letting Calgary carry any momentum into the third, the Avs came out strong in the final period and scored the only goal. Malgin broke through three Flames defenders on a masterful individual effort before beating Markstrom clean to make it 4-1. Colorado had only three shots in the third but limited Calgary to just five. Georgiev capped off his fourth consecutive victory with 28 saves.

“It’s tough to make a play when you don’t play a lot,” Georgiev said of Malgin, who scored his third goal in six games in just 7:46 of ice time. “But now we’ve got guys playing with confidence and playing smart so that helps a lot to have those depth guys scoring for us.”

Georgiev improved to 25-12-4 with a .920 save percentage. His 25 wins are tied for fourth in the NHL with former teammate and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers. Georgiev has been a force for Colorado since Pavel Francouz’s injury — eclipsing his career highs in nearly every category along the way. His first starting role has been a success to this point.

“It’s been so much fun playing a lot,” he said.

Bednar added: “It helps when our team’s playing good but I really like his game here recently.”