Need to know: Wings' Kronwall hits the top

• There’s no forgetting Nicklas Lidstrom. That goes without saying. But here’s to Niklas Kronwall for at least helping Wings’ fans with the separation anxiety that comes with losing the greatest defenseman of his generation to retirement. The scorching-hot Red Wings defender -- and fellow Swede -- had a goal and two assists Sunday as the Wings made it two wins in a row after a five-game winless streak, crushing a sloppy Vancouver Canucks team 8-3. Kronwall -- generally known for his hard, sometimes devastating open-ice hitting -- took over the NHL lead for points among defensemen with 16. The win vaulted the Wings into fifth place in the Western Conference. After a stretch of strong play, Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo endured a miserable night as he allowed eight goals on 28 shots in a game the Canucks actually led 3-2 after the first period. Calling Cory Schneider.

• Hey, we know putting the schedule together, especially at the last minute, must be a hassle. Still, we find it hard to reconcile that the Boston Bruins played only their 15th game of the season Sunday, at least three fewer than any other team in their division. Still, it doesn’t seem to matter to the Bruins, who beat Florida 4-1, their third win in a row. Tuukka Rask moved to 9-1-2 by stopping 34 of 35 shots. The game featured an elegant spin-o-rama move by captain Zdeno Chara for a goal. For those keeping score at home, the Bruins own the best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference and are third overall with an 11-2-2 record.

• Of greater concern to the New Jersey Devils than losing two in a row to inferior Southeast Division talent is the fact that all-world netminder Martin Brodeur wasn’t able to answer the bell for Sunday’s tilt with the Winnipeg Jets. With Johan Hedberg between the pipes, the Devils were waxed Saturday by Washington by a 5-1 count as Alex Ovechkin recorded his first hat trick since January 2011. Brodeur was supposed to start Sunday but left warm-ups and team officials said he was dealing with back soreness that will be evaluated Monday. The Jets, 5-3 losers in Philadelphia on Saturday, went out and beat Hedberg 4-2. The Devils are 1-3-1 in their past five games and have relinquished the Atlantic Division lead to the Pittsburgh Penguins. As for the Jets, although they blew a lead in losing to the Flyers Saturday, they have actually enjoyed relative success on the road and are 3-1 on their current five-game trip. They are only two points off the lead in the woeful Southeast Division as well as two points out of the eighth and the final playoff spot in the East.

• The Pittsburgh Penguins rolled on without the services of Evgeni Malkin, who has been diagnosed with a concussion after taking a hard fall into the boards during Friday’s win over the Florida Panthers. The Penguins jumped out early on the Tampa Bay Lightning and then held on to win 5-3, led by Sidney Crosby, who had two goals and an assist. The game featured a battle between the two leading scorers in the NHL as Tampa’s Steven Stamkos kept pace with a three-point game of his own (one goal, two assists) and leads Crosby by one point. Still, tough times for the Lightning, who are 3-7-1, including 3-5-0 on the road, after a 6-1-0 start.

• You always wonder about games that will come back to haunt a team or games that spark a team to greater things. Was Sunday night in Calgary one of those nights? The Phoenix Coyotes led 4-3 with less than two minutes to go but allowed a Jarome Iginla goal with 1:23 left to tie it and then Curtis Glencross scored the winner 23 seconds later as the Flames bested the Yotes 5-4. The win marked just the second time this season the Flames have won two in a row. They are now two points in arrears of eighth place and improved a grisly home record to 4-5-2.

• And, oh yeah, Chicago won again. The Blackhawks welcomed Corey Crawford back to the lineup after a four-game absence due to injury and he stopped all 28 Columbus Blue Jackets shots as the Blackhawks’ streak of games without a regulation loss to start the season reached 18 en route to a 1-0 victory. Chicago, now 15-0-3, will entertain Edmonton Monday night.