penguins100427_306

An average 2.948 million viewers tuned into Hockey Night in Canada's broadcast of Game 6 between the Senators and Penguins, who eliminated Ottawa with a 4-3 overtime win on Saturday. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Parity in the National Hockey League this season led to intense playoff races, tightly contested opening-round matchups and hungry television viewers.

According to overnight data from BBM, the audience measurement organization for Canadian television and radio broadcasting, Hockey Night in Canada recorded its highest overall average audience for Round 1 since 2004.

Audiences averaged 1.422 million, a significant increase from the HNIC average of 951,000 to open last year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

In 2004, with five of the six Canadian teams in the post-season, HNIC had an average audience of 1.989 million.

Leading the ratings game in Round 1 of these playoffs was the Vancouver Canucks/Los Angeles Kings series, with HNIC pulling in an average 2.031 million viewers over six games.

The Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins matchup, featuring Nova Scotia native Sidney Crosby, drew an average audience of two million, followed by Colorado/San Jose (825,000) and Buffalo/Boston (736,000).

The highest average HNIC single-game audience of 2.948 million tuned into Game 6 between the Senators and Penguins, who overcame a 3-0 deficit to post a 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday night.

Sunday's Game 6 in L.A. was next with a 2.826 million average.

Plenty of fans also caught the action on their computer screen. HNIC reported a total of 712,144 streaming views for Round 1, an increase of more than 400,000 from last year (267,543).

The single-game high was 73,767 for Game 5 of the Ottawa/Pittsburgh series, followed by 57,916 for the decisive contest involving Vancouver and L.A.