The Penguins though, seem to have the pieces in place to keep pressing ahead even without their star captain, who is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Pittsburgh tries to win a third straight game for the first time since November on Sunday when it visits the slumping Dallas Stars.
The Penguins (31-26-6) are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference but just one point behind Buffalo and Carolina, which are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with 69 points.
Despite the pressure his team is under to get back to the playoffs after losing in six games to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals last season, Crosby was on the bench the last two games after suffering a groin injury last Sunday in a 5-2 loss to Washington.
Crosby, who the Penguins' official Web site said is uncertain for Sunday, ranks second on the team with 23 goals and 79 points. Despite his absence, the Penguins earned their fourth win in five games Friday, opening their longest road trip of the season with a 5-4 overtime victory at Chicago.
Evgeni Malkin scored his team-leading 28th goal 1:36 into the extra session, extending his point streak to seven games. New acquisition Chris Kunitz, picked up in a trade with Anaheim on Thursday in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney and prospect Eric Tangradi, had a goal and an assist.
"It was huge for us," goaltender Marc-Andrew Fleury said. "We need these points in a tight (playoff) race. To beat that team at home is such a boost."
The Penguins haven't won three in a row since winning six straight Nov. 1-15.
Dallas (29-25-7) is also trying to build momentum for a late surge into the postseason. The Stars are tied with Minnesota for 10th place in the West - two points behind Edmonton and Anaheim for the final two playoff spots. Ninth-place Nashville leads Dallas and the Wild by one point.
The Stars lost 4-3 to Anaheim on Saturday - the fourth straight defeat on their six-game homestand, which concludes with this contest.
"We might need to go on the road a bit," said Dallas leading scorer Mike Ribeiro, who had two goals and an assist. "You can't control what's happened the last few games. But we should have closed that game and got some points out of it."
Marty Turco gave up two goals in a span of less than two minutes in the third period to let a one-goal Dallas lead slip away. He's started all four games of the losing streak and 32 in a row overall.
"We are competing hard but we have some weak links right now," coach Dave Tippett told the Stars' official Web site. "Marty didn't have his best night and we are making mistakes that are costing us games."
The Penguins have defeated the Stars three straight times. Crosby scored twice in last season's lone meeting, a 4-1 Penguins win in Pittsburgh.