At one end of the ice was an open net, a bunch of hockey pucks and two franchise centers.

It looked like a lot more than a shooting drill for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as each intently fired away at the cage on Monday. Neither a hit nor miss deterred either player. They both just kept shooting.

This went on for about 10 minutes on the morning of Game 6.

Practice did not make prefect, but it sure paid off for the Penguins.

They are in Round 2 — though not without having to sweat late in the third period — after a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Monday night.

A late surge by the Blue Jackets, who trailed 4-0 entering the final period, nearly pushed the Penguins to a deciding Game 7. A short-handed goal by defenseman Fedor Tyutin, a power-play goal by center Brandon Dubinsky and one at even strength from winger Nick Foligno chipped away at that deficit in a span of about five minutes.

Fortunately for the Penguins, Malkin had scored twice early — Crosby contributed on both goals, though he was credited with only an assist — to provide the spark that led to that 4-0 advantage.

The Penguins won the best-of-seven series 4-2. They will play either the New York Rangers or Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. The Rangers lead the Flyers, 3-2, with Game 6 at Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

No matter their opponent, the Penguins will feel a lot better about possibly returning to the Eastern Conference final because of the respective stronger finishes against Columbus by Crosby and Malkin.

Neither had scored a goal since Round 2 of last year's postseason.

Malkin had three before the end of the second period in Game 2. He bested Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, a fellow Russian Olympian, to the blocker side on each score.

Crosby remains at 11 consecutive playoff games without a goal, but he finished Round 1 with six points. He looked at times like his MVP self — except for a retaliatory second-period slashing penalty — in Game 6.