NHL’s Bruins-Lightning Playoff Game Lifts Versus

8:30 AM PST 05/30/2011 by Marisa Guthrie
Brian Babineau/NHL via Getty Images

The Boston Bruins' victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning is cable's most-watched third-round game in nine years.

A dramatic Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night gave Versus its most-watched conference final in network history.

The game averaged 2.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That makes it the most-watched third-round game on all of cable since May 31, 2002, when the Detroit-Colorado rivalry went to a seventh game.

The Bruins' victory over the Lightning was the sixth-most watched game in the network’s history overall (bested only by Stanley Cup Final games). Viewership for the game peaked at 3.2 million viewers from 10-10:30 p.m. ET.

Versus became part of NBC Sports with the Comcast takeover earlier this year. The two networks have shared NHL telecasts. And last month, NBC Sports and Versus renewed the NHL rights deal with a $1.9 billion, ten-year pact that will keep hockey on the networks through the 2020-21 season.

The Bruins will battle the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup. And executives at NBC Sports were likely rooting for a Bruins victory, since having at least one major market team in the finals will certainly help lift TV ratings.

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