Niklas Kronwall sat in a corner of the visitors dressing room in Edmonton, peeling off equipment after a narrow escape.

It was a moment of mixed emotion.

The Red Wings had just defeated the Oilers, 3-2. But they put themselves in the position of requiring a furious third-period comeback.

"I think, both of their goals, I could have done something differently, for sure," Kronwall said.

After assessing himself, he turned to the team.

"I think the first two periods were awful tonight, to say the least, a step behind and just watching," Kronwall said. "It wasn't enough."

He credited the forwards for generating the dynamic cycling game and Jimmy Howard's brilliant performance for the win.

It was all classic Kronwall, and evidence of why he is a leader among leaders for the Red Wings. Kronwall, 32, assumes personal responsibility. He also identifies the reality of game situations and the team's overall performance so deftly that his words and analysis carry considerable weight.

There is one Nick, now. Nicklas Lidstrom has retired. Kronwall leads a young defense that has jelled over the course of the first 29 games.

"He talks really well and motivates us that way," said Brendan Smith, one of two rookies among the six defensive regulars, among which Kronwall is the only 30-year-old. "But he shows it on the ice, too.

"He shows by example, which is a big thing for a leader like him. But he is a vocal leader as well. He does it whether it's in the room or on the ice. On the ice, he's always talking."

Kronwall's leadership was on display in the dressing room during a recent game when the Red Wings played a poor first period.

"We came in here," Smith said, standing at his dressing stall, "and he was one of the first guys talking, to give some tips for the boys to work on or things that maybe we should think about so we could get better and get some momentum that way."