Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford skated into second place following the pairs short program of the inaugural figure skating team event Thursday in Sochi, Russia.
The Canadians finished with a score of 73.10, using precision timing and solid jumping.
Reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia nearly broke their own world record after a superb short program. The Russians took a sizeable lead over Duhamel and Radford with 83.79 points.
China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang are third with 71.01 points.
Every first-place finisher of the four disciplines - men, women, ice dance and pairs - receives 10 points, second place gets nine, third earns eight, and so forth.
After the men's and pairs short programs, Russia leads with 19 points, followed by Canada (17) and China (15).
Duhamel and Radford, the 2013 world bronze medallists, fed off the crowd and their teammates. Skating to music composed by Radford as a tribute to late coach Paul Wirtz, the Canadians opened with a strong throw triple twist before Duhamel nailed a throw triple jump later in the program.
Duhamel, of of Lively, Ont., and Radford, of Balmertown, Ont., ended with a death spiral to the delight of their compatriots, which included Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
But the day belonged to Volosozhar and Trankov, who sent their Russian fans into a frenzy with a brilliant performance. The highlight came in the opening moments as they delivered a perfect throw triple twist that generated mesmerizing height. The pair also converted all of their jumps.
In the men's short program, Toronto's Patrick Chan struggled to a third-place finish. The three-time world champion looked shaky during his program and finished with a score of 89.71.
Japanese sensation Yuzuru Hanyu had a near-flawless routine, earning a score of 97.98 to take first place. Russian Evgeni Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist, sits in second with 91.39 points.
Each country gets a chance to switch up two competitors between the short and long programs, which may mean Chan would give way to Kevin Reynolds after the short, while Dylan Moscovitch and Kirsten Moore-Towers may replace Duhamel and Radford.
Next up in the team event are the ice dance short, ladies' short and pairs free programs on Saturday.
The event wraps up Sunday with the men's and ladies' free programs, followed by the ice dance free, which will determine the medallists.