MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The fans spotted them the moment they stepped onto the ice for the group warmup, and the cheering barely let up.

More than two years after their silver medal skate at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir made a triumphant return — finally — on Friday, winning the short dance at Skate Canada International. It was a moment not lost on anybody.

"The feeling out there today was right where we wanted it to be," Moir said. "The fans were electric for us, and that was a truly special moment. Technically we have to work on getting a little bit stronger, but we're right where we want to be at this time of year."

Virtue and Moir, who won Olympic gold in Vancouver then silver in Sochi before stepping away from competition, scored 77.23 points with their program to music by Prince, and take a one-point lead over Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates into Saturday's free dance.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto were third.

Patrick Chan is the leader after the men's short program, while Canadian teammate Kevin Reynolds is third.

Earlier Friday, Canada's two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford easily won the pairs short program, while Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch were third.

And Kaetlyn Osmond, a 20-year-old from Marystown, N.L., is second after the women's short program.

In any other season, Virtue and Moir's lead would be more than a mere point, but they said coming back, they knew this would be "an 18-month plan, we're ticking the days off," Virtue said.

"We're stepping back into a field that doesn't have room for us, kind of in a way," Moir added. "So it's interesting to find where we're going to slot in, and we feel like we're starting from the beginning. We've got a lot of work to do."

Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., have six world championship medals — including two gold — to go with their Olympic ones, but titles "from many moons ago," Virtue said, mean little when they step on the ice to compete now.

"(People say) we're veterans and older now, I think they think we don't feel the pressure and we feel kind of the opposite," Moir said. "We feel it more, and it's a big reason we came back. We want that pressure."

Their program to Prince, who died in April, was a crowd-pleaser as well. Virtue skated in a backless, sequined cat suit with purple ruffles at the neck. Moir wore all black.

"Having an iconic musician like Prince, that sets the standard really high, we wanted to elevate our skating to try and match that calibre," Virtue said. "And that edge of glamour and rock and roll that Prince is so well-known for has been fun to bring onto the ice."

"And a little daunting too," Moir added. "Designing costumes and making choreography. . . he was a legend. Even cutting down his music, you're cutting down seven-minute masterpieces. We keep saying we're going to have to answer to him one day, I'm sure he's not very happy looking down."

Chan, who's on a comeback of his own, fell on his triple Axel but his beautiful quad toe loop to open the program was enough to secure him first place.

Skating to The Beatles' "Dear Prudence" and "Blackbird," the 25-year-old from Toronto scored 90.56 points.

Japanese skaters were second and third — Takahito Mura took second with 81.25, while Reynolds, from Coquitlam, B.C., landed two beautiful quad jumps to score 80.57.

Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan fell on his quad loop and is fourth.

"Comfortable," Chan said, summing up the night. "The jumps didn't turn out to be feeling the way they did in practice, but that's normal jitters and adrenaline from being in competition."

Chan waited for his marks sandwiched between two new coaches — Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein. His previous coach Kathy Johnson left him in August.

Zoueva, who described having Chan in her rink as having a Rembrandt in her home, said his biggest problem is self-belief.

"She's absolutely right, it comes in many forms," Chan said. "The one thing she always tells me is people are here to enjoy your skating, not to add any pressure or expectations. No-one forced them to buy the ticket, they're here to enjoy the skating.

"That's an advantage for me, because I can bring something so different to skating, a different kind of energy and quality of skating that people appreciate. So she's making really valid points that I just need to open my mind and accept."

Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., debuted their new throw triple Axel in their short program to Seal's "Killer," to score 78.39 points. China's Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao are second, while Toronto's Ilyushechkina and Moscovitch were third.

The Canadians have a throw quad Salchow in their long program, but rules don't allow for quads in the pairs short event.

"We thought 'OK now, how can we increase our base value of the short without a quad, and we already do the hardest jump (side-by-side triple Lutz), the only way was to learn the hardest throw triple which is the triple Axel," Duhamel said. "We only learned to throw single Axel in March, it hasn't even been a year since we learned a single, so to already be able to land the triple and do it in competition is a huge accomplishment for us.

"And we want to just keep pushing ourselves and pushing the sport."

Pushing themselves keeps things fresh, Radford added.

"Meagan and I have always said we find skating fun, day in and day out," he said. "Probably the reason I think is because we push ourselves day in and day out, and if we were just doing the same elements year after year, it would get boring. It's challenging but it's fun for us to keep pushing the sport like this."