The World Junior Championship opened in Buffalo with an upset as the Czech Republic held on for a 5-4 win over Russia in a Pool B preliminary round game.
It was just the second win for the Czech Republic over Russia in their last 11 meetings at the Under-20 level.
"We scored five times against the Russians, so that was big for us," said Czech defenseman and Sabres draft pick Vojtech Budik. "They're always such a good team, but our coaches prepared us really well for this game, and we played with a lot of intensity."
The intensity began early as the Czechs scored just 4:42 into the game on the power play. Russia countered 39 seconds later with a goal. When the Czechs again took the lead, the Russians again responded and the score was tied, 2-2, after one period.
But the Czech Republic built a two-goal lead in the second period, including their second power-play goal of the game. The lead went to 5-2 early in the third.
Russia rallied, scoring twice in the final four minutes to put pressure on the Czechs.
"We were definitely nervous at the end, but we got the win, and that's the main thing," added Budik.
Martin Kaut had three assists for the Czech Republic, which featured five different goal scorers.
Both Russia and the Czech Republic are off Wednesday. Russia next faces Switzerland at 2 p.m. in HarborCenter Thursday. The Czech Republic faces Sweden at 4 p.m. Thursday in KeyBank Center.
Sweden 6, Belarus 1
Buffalo Sabres prospect Alexander Nylander had two assists as Sweden opened the tournament with an offensive burst.
Sweden took a 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Elias Pettersson but Belarus tied the game later in the period on a shorthanded tally from Yegor Sharangovich, the result of a bad pass from Nylander.
"I made the pass and I can’t let that happen," Nylander said. "But you just focus on the next shift to do better."
Sweden erupted for three goals in a four-minute span in the second period to open up a 4-1 lead. That included Nylander setting up Erik Brannstrom. In the third period, Nylander set up Lias Andersson on the power play as Sweden extended its lead.
Marcus Davidsson, another Sabres prospect on Team Sweden, had one shot in 10:25 of ice time.
Rasmus Dahlin, the likely overall No. 1 pick at this summer's NHL Entry Draft, had two assists.
Sweden held a 36-9 advantage in shots on goal.
Bulgaria plays Switzerland at 3 p.m. Wednesday in KeyBank Center. Sweden is off until Thursday when they play the Czech Republic at 4 p.m. in KeyBank Center.