MINSK, Belarus (AP) Defending champion Sweden made the first step in its title defense with a 3-0 victory over Denmark at the ice hockey world championship on Saturday.
Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund scored twice in the opening period when the Swedes displayed fast, well organized play that was tough for Denmark to match.
''It was nice to have a few goals right away, keep the pressure off and the nerves away,'' Backlund said.
Another Scandinavian superpower, Finland, began its campaign with an upset 3-2 loss to Latvia and Norway blanked Italy 3-0 while Germany prevailed in a shootout to beat Kazakhstan 2-1.
Backlund scored his first for Sweden when defenseman Markus Lauridsen deflected his shot to the net with his skate and struck again by precisely directing Joakim Lindstrom's slap shot. Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist added the third on a solo effort after intercepting a pass.
''Once we got up two to nothing we stopped taking the puck to the net,'' Nyquist said. ''We tried to make too many passes instead of shooting the puck.''
Latvia failed to capitalize on its second-period power plays when a total of seven Finns were in the penalty box. Finland used its only power play in that period to go 2-1 up with a goal by Petri Kontiola.
Kristaps Sotnieks tied the match for Latvia - the quarterfinalist in the Sochi Winter Olympics - in the third before Arturs Kulda netted the winner on a power play.
It was the first victory for Latvia over Finland at the worlds.
Thomas Oppenheimer scored the decisive goal in the shootout to give Germany the win.
Germany outshot its opponent 47-20 but Kazakhstan went ahead 1-0 after a goal from Andrei Gavrilin. The Germans answered through Matthias Plachta at the end of the first period.
''I have to look at the positive,'' German coach Pat Cortina said. ''We put the puck to the net and that is extremely important for our team.''
Niklas Roest opened the scoring in the first period for Norway, Morten Ask made it 2-0 midway through the game and captain Anders Bastiansen rounded off the victory on a breakaway in the third.
''I tried to shoot early to surprise the goalie and it went in, so I was really happy,'' Bastiansen said. ''We did a good job. We won and that's the most important thing.''
Goaltender Lars Haugen made 15 saves for the shutout, but needed help from his posts on two shots by defenseman Daniel Sullivan in the second.
''We had a little difficulty in the beginning, adjusting to the speed,'' Italy coach Tom Pokel said. ''However, as the game went on we got better and better. So it was a good game for us.''
Italy and Kazakhstan are both newcomers to the top division this year.
Later Saturday, Canada hopes to rebound from Friday's 3-2 loss to France with a win against Slovakia, while the United States faces Switzerland a day after it routed host Belarus 6-1.