NBC got its wish with Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, an exciting contest that wasn’t decided until Pittsburgh’s goalie Marc-Andre Fleury dived across the crease to deny Detroit’s Niklas Lidstrom with one second left.
Fleury’s heroics stopped the game from extending into overtime, which would have disrupted its local news flow and Conan’s Tonight Show at 11:30 p.m.
Racking up 23 saves in total, Fleury ultimately made Max Talbot’s two-second period goals hold up, even after Jonathan Ericsson cut the deficit in half with just over six minutes remaining. Fleury was also fortunate: Niklas Kronwall’s drive with just over two remaining clanged off the crossbar.
As such, the Penguins avenged last year’s loss to the defending champion Red Wings (take that turncoat Marian Hossa) and became the first team to win Game 7 of the championship round of a major sport on the road since the late “Pops” Stargell’s “We are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles in 1979. Indeed, the Penguins, in the first Stanley Cup rematch since the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers exhanged dynasties in 1983 and 1984, clinched all four of their 2009 playoff series on enemy ice, including its win against Alex “The Great’s” Washington Capitals, during which Pittsburgh also trailed 2-0.
With no other major national sporting events to check it into the boards, Game 7 should have played relatively big with the Nielsens despite its Friday night face off. Through its Game 6 telecast on Tuesday, NBC’s four Stanley Cup Finals presentations — with two on Saturday, TV’s least-watched night — were down 13% in ratings to a 2.8 national average, but ahead 11% in viewership to 5 million.
Is it reasonable to expect the Peacock’s Friday night telecast to more than double Versus’ best-ever mark, the 3.45 million who tuned in Game 4 (which knocked helmets with Game 1 of David Stern’s championship) on June 4 and garner more than 7 million viewers (Detroit’s clincher in Game 6 in 2008 netted 6.8 million) for Game 7 of Lord Stanley’s series?
It says here roll a seven for 7 million-plus for Game 7.