With 20 games remaining in its NHL season, the Avalanche is only one point behind the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Rather than repeating that for effect, let's instead acknowledge that if most sane folks had been told last summer this would be the case in early March, they would have wondered what was going to happen to bring on the Blackhawks' monumental 2013-14 collapse.

Instead, this isn't about Chicago struggling, but the 40-17-5 Avalanche's turnaround in its first season under coach Patrick Roy.

The same Colorado franchise that finished a near-worst 29th overall in the NHL last season got a tiebreaking power-play goal from defenseman Tyson Barrie at 12:50 of the third period and beat the Blackhawks 4-2 on Tuesday night at the United Center.

Barrie and Ryan O'Reilly each had a goal and an assist, defenseman Erik Johnson had three assists, and Semyon Varlamov again kept the Avalanche in the game when it might not have deserved it early, finishing with 36 saves.

The Avalanche also reached 40 wins through 62 games, accomplishing that faster than any other team in franchise history. With a fellow named Roy in the net on most game nights, the 2000-01 Stanley Cup champions — albeit without a shootout to prevent ties — hit 40 wins in their 63rd game.

"When you have 40 wins at this stage of the season, that means you're doing something really good," Roy said. "We're playing well as a team, we have great chemistry and I'm very proud of our guys."

Also, when Nathan MacKinnon made the pass out from behind the net to Paul Stastny, who scored into the empty net with 32.6 seconds remaining, MacKinnon got credit for the assist that extended his point streak to 12 games. That not only is the longest rookie streak since Stastny's in 2006-07, it also equaled Wayne Gretzky for the longest NHL streak by an 18-year-old. Gretzky had points in 12 consecutive games in 1979-80, the first season after the Edmonton Oilers and three other World Hockey Association franchises — including the Quebec Nordiques, the Avalanche's forerunners — joined the NHL.