The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals made it rain for NBC Sports, Wednesday night. The clash of the titans drew the highest ratings for an NHL game on the network since April 2016 according to NBC Sports PR.
The game launched into intense excitement within the first minute when Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak fought Washington forward Tom Wilson. Oleksiak was concussed and missed the rest of the game, but the drama continued as captains Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin argued and yelled at each other from their benches after the fight.
The game averaged 718,000 viewers and drew the most eyes since the 2016 game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, which drew 831,000. The tweet from NBC Sports PR did intentionally omit opening night games.
One of the best rivalries in sports, the Penguins and Washington have won the last three Stanley Cups. The Penguins won the first back-to-back championships in the salary cap era and were the consistently the end to the Washington season until Evgeny Kuznetsov beat Matt Murray in Game 6 of Round 2 last season. The Kuznetsov goal ended the series and the Penguins reign.
The Penguins beat the Capitals, 2-1 Wednesday with an entertaining, emotional effort. Bryan Rust scored the eventual game-winner late in the second period. The Penguins, which also won the opening night shootout 7-6, trail the Capitals by three points in the Metro Division, but the teams do not play again until March.
The Penguins have four wins in their last five games and are finally playing closer to their identity, according to head coach Mike Sullivan.