Crosby had a goal to become the youngest NHL player to accumulate 200 career points, but Scott Walker scored twice to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory.
Consecutive losses earlier this week left the Hurricanes out of the playoff picture and in danger of becoming only the third Stanley Cup champion to miss the postseason in the following year.
Instead of working out the troubles in practice, coach Peter Laviolette decided to give his players a day off. The strategy worked perfectly.
"You lose two in a row, it's hard," Walker said. "If you come to the rink the next day, it's still there in the room. It was nice to get some time off."
Crosby scored in the first period to reach the 200-point plateau at the age of 19 years 207 days, breaking the mark set by Wayne Gretzky in the 1980-81 season. Gretzky recorded his 200th point at the age of 19 years 347 days.
Crosby already was the youngest player to start the all-star game since fan voting began in 1986.
"I never thought that would happen," Crosby said. "It's a nice accomplishment."
Frantisek Kaberle also scored for the Hurricanes, who snapped a two-game losing streak to move ahead of Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens lost 8-5 to Buffalo.
Ryan Malone tied the game 2-2 in the second with his 13th goal of the season, but the Penguins lost for the fourth time in six games.
The teams combined to go 0-for-13 on the power play in a game with playoff intensity. The Hurricanes improved to 17-13-4 at home. Last season they were 31-8-2.
"I don't think we've played very well at home in front of our fans, but whether it's home or road, the biggest thing are the points right now," Laviolette said. "Every night, there are games going on, and we have to keep pace."
Crosby leads the league with 98 points, well on his way to his second consecutive season with at least 100 points. Crosby won't be 20 until August.
"He's a heck of a player," said Carolina goalie Cam Ward.
Walker had the third two-goal game of the season, and second against Pittsburgh. The other came way back Oct. 14.
His last goal was eight games ago in a victory over the Los Angeles Kings, and his effort might help the Hurricanes return to the playoffs.
"You can't worry about who gets the goals," Walker said. "When you play hard and skate hard, sometimes the bounces go your way. I thought the guys played really well."
After Crosby opened the scoring in the first, the Hurricanes took advantage of a lucky bounce to tie the game with the teams skating 4-on-4. Niclas Wallin's shot went well wide of the goal, but the puck bounced off the back boards and came straight to Walker, who blasted a slapshot into the net.
Carolina took a brief 2-1 lead less than a minute later when Kaberle sent a wrist shot through several screens to beat Jocelyn Thibault. The puck was deflected at least once, and Thibault had no chance to stop it.
"That's the type of game you expect to play when you come here," Thibault said. "They battled hard.
"We did, too."
But the Penguins' deficit was short-lived. Colby Armstrong centred a pass from the corner, and Malone got to the puck before defenceman Tim Gleason. Malone's quick shot appeared to deflect off the stick of Gleason to make it 2-2.
"It was a hard-nosed game, and we didn't back down," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "That's a good sign, but we didn't execute well or have the right attitude on the power play, and that's our strength."
Notes: Carolina LW Cory Stillman played his 100th game as a member of the team. Gleason and Pittsburgh LW Gary Roberts went toe-to-toe late in the first period, with Roberts getting the best of it.