Champions Sweden up and running, USA win shoot-out thriller

Defending champions Sweden outclassed Belarus in their IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship opener, while the United States earned a dramatic shoot-out win over Canada on Friday.

Sweden won a 10th world championship 12 months ago and had too much quality for Belarus in Copenhagen.

Lias Andersson and Gustav Nyquist scored midway through the first period of the Group A contest, before Janmark Mattias and Rickard Rakell stretched the lead. Mika Zibanejad rounded out the scoring with four minutes left on the clock.

"It's something you've been dreaming about since you were a kid," goaltender Magnus Hellberg, making his championship debut, said. "I had a couple of games earlier in the season, but the world championship is the world championship."

Also in the pool, Russia - who finished third in 2017 - battered France 7-0, scoring three times in three minutes and 14 seconds during the first period. Kirill Kaprizov finished with two goals and an assist.

In Group B, USA needed a shoot-out to defeat Canada in a thrilling showdown.

A back-and-forth contest was locked at 4-4 in regular time and, although Canada largely dominated in overtime with Connor McDavid particularly impressive, Cam Atkinson scored two brilliant shoot-out goals to earn his side the 5-4 win.

"I was ready for the opportunity [with the penalty shots]. I usually shoot in Columbus so I am happy that they gave me the opportunity. Luckily it all worked out," Atkinson said.

The other match in the pool also needed a shoot-out, as Denmark triumphed over Germany.

It marked the first time the Danes have won a world championship match on home ice.

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