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Crosby return to Pens draws big local rating

A huge local television audience watched Sidney Crosby's triumphant return to the Penguins on Monday night.

The game averaged an astronomical overnight Nielsen rating of 15.36 on the Root Sports Pittsburgh cable network. It was the second-highest local rating for a regular-season game in team history, topped only by Mario Lemieux's comeback Dec. 27, 2000, which drew a 15.9 rating.

Ratings represent the percentage of TV households tuned to a particular program. There are about 1,160,820 TV households in the Pittsburgh market. An estimated 94.2 percent have cable or satellite.

The Penguins perennially lead all U.S.-based NHL teams in local ratings, and last year the club drew an 8.68. This game nearly doubled that. About 440,000 viewers tuned in as Crosby, idled for nearly a year because of effects from a concussion, had two goals and two assists in a 5-0 win over the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center.

Unlike Lemieux's return from retirement, Crosby's first game since Jan. 5 happened on short notice. But it still drew considerable interest.

"We knew (Lemieux) was coming back a few weeks out," Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said. "This one was literally 28 hours."

Word didn't quite spread as quickly elsewhere, however. Versus, which aired the game nationally except in Pittsburgh and New York, drew just 198,000 viewers and a 0.2 rating.

CBC aired its telecast throughout Canada. Its ratings were not available. McMillan said neither Versus nor CBC had planned to air the game until news of Crosby's return broke Sunday afternoon.

"They rerouted crews to Pittsburgh," he said.

ESPN reported from the game, along with Canadian networks Rogers Sportsnet, TSN, RDS and CTV.

"Probably if you were a sports network, you were there," ESPN analyst Barry Melrose said. "If your name was a bunch of letters, you were there."

ESPN rarely dispatches crews to regular-season games. Melrose, who lives in Florida, said he got his orders at 5:30 p.m. Sunday and used the network's "emergency travel" service to hastily book a flight from Tampa. He said he arrived in Pittsburgh at about 1 a.m. Monday and was on the air nine hours later.

Part of the ESPN crew drove from State College, where they have been holed up for weeks covering the Penn State scandal.

"They were so happy to do a sporting event," Melrose said.

Photo Galleries

Sidney Crosby Returns November 21, 2011

Sidney Crosby Returns  November 21, 2011

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scores twice in his return against the New York Islanders, Monday, November 21, 2011 at Consol Energy Center.

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