Co-hosts Finland got their title defence off to a winning start on Friday, beating Belarus 1-0 in their preliminary round match at the ice hockey world championships here.
Spurred on by a capacity 13,000 home crowd, Finland pinned Belarus back from the opening face-off but the guests 'keeper Vitali Koval performed courageously stopping and deflecting all pucks thrown at him.
But Koval was unable to stop Finland's blueliner Janne Niskala breaking through with just 42 seconds remaining before the first interval.
In the second period the Finns continued peppering Koval with shots but to no avail as they lacked precision in front of the Belarus net.
Belarus manager Kari Heikkila substituted Koval for the sixth field player with 25 seconds remaining in the third period but failed to save the day for his side.
"We knew that it would be a tough game," Finland manager Jukka Jalonen said. "Belarus were defending very well and it was really difficult for us to score.
"We started well but scored only once in the first period. Belarus also had their chances but (Kari) Lehtonen was very good in our net. Our penalty killing was excellent today but powerplay didn't work. But we're happy to win today."
Also in the Helsinki group, Vancouver Olympic champions Canada came away 3-2 winners against 2002 world champions Slovakia.
Canada, who won their last world crown in 2007, grabbed the lead through Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, who beat Slovakia's goalie Peter Hamerlik from close range on Ryan Getzlaf's feeding pass 14:21 into the match.
Tomas Tatar pulled the scores level 1:58 into the second period, wristing the puck into the net from the left face-off circle, but Jordan Eberle of Edmonton Oilers restored Canada's lead with a sharp-angled shot 10 minutes later.
Winnipeg Jets' striker Andrew Ladd made it 3-1 for Canada 35:21 into the match, when he redirected Ryan O'Reilly's cross into the net.
Milan Bartovic reduced the arrears 2:59 into the third period but failed to save the day as Canada defended stoutly and kept their advantage through.
"It was a tough match as Slovakia are traditionally strong opponents," Canada skipper Ryan Getzlaf said.
"I remember that the previous matches with them were also pretty tough.
"We still need time to adjust our playing to the European ice rinks' size, but we all want to keep getting better. We know it's going to be tougher from one match to another. And our next match with USA will show whether we're ready for it."
Meanwhile, in Stockholm, co-hosts Sweden prevailed 3-1 in a Scandinavian derby with neighbouring Norway.
Jakob Silfverberg, Marcus Kruger and Loui Eriksson all scored one apiece for Sweden, while Mads Hansen was on target for Norway.
The 2010 world champions Czech Republic grabbed three points in their hard-fought 2-0 win over Denmark.
The Czech Republic looked dominant early but failed to break the deadlock in the first period as the Danes defended well, with Frederik Andersen in complete command of his net.
Edmonton Oilers forward Ales Hemsky put the Czech Republic ahead with just five seconds remaining before Tomas Plekanec scored in the second intermission with a short cross.
The Danes picked up steam in the third period and tried to take their rivals goal by storm but Czech striker Petr Tenkrat dashed their hopes with 2:39 to go.
In the early Helsinki group match the United States thrashed France 7-2, while Germany blanked 3-0 Italy early at Stockholm.© ANP/AFP