Versus Scores With Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals

Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals drew the largest audience to Versus in its history, as 2.96 million viewers tuned in Tuesday night to see the Penguins defeat the Red Wings 4-2.

The delivery tops Versus’ previous record of 2.61 million viewers for Game 2 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.

NBC and Versus flipped their broadcast schedules for the first time this year, as the broadcaster carried the first two Stanley Cup games and Versus assumed the rights for Games Three and Four. Last year, Versus averaged 2.48 million viewers with those first two Finals match-ups.

Through three games, the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals is averaging 4.25 million viewers on NBC and Versus, up 42 percent from last year’s 3 million. Game 1 of the Penguins/Red Wings series averaged 4.4 million viewers on NBC Saturday night, while Game Two drew 5.4 million viewers.

OLN first picked up the U.S. cable rights to the NHL in 2005, when ESPN elected not to meet its three-year/$200 million bid. The Comcast-owned network reupped with the league in 2008, extending its deal through 2011.

Versus’ coverage resumes tonight at 8 p.m., live from Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena. The Red Wings hold a 2-1 series lead over the Pens.