Swedish defenceman Anton Stralman, left, and goalie Mikael Tellqvist do battle Saturday with Dmitry Meleshko of Belarus. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

Robert Wallin scored the winner midway through the third period as Sweden beat Belarus 6-5 Saturday afternoon in the first game for both countries at the world hockey championships in Quebec City.

Dmitry Meleshko had put Belarus up 5-4 early in the third at the Colisée arena, threatening to hand the Swedes another big upset at a high-profile tournament. Belarus eliminated Sweden in a stunner at the 2002 Olympics.

This time around, Patric Hornqvist quickly tied the game for the Swedes two minutes after Meleshko scored, paving the way for Wallin's winner.

"The second period wasn't good at all for us, but we were lucky enough to get out with a tie," Wallin said. "Scoring six goals is not bad, but obviously we have to have better defensive play to compete against better teams."

Washington Capitals centre Nicklas Backstrom, nominated for the NHL's Calder Trophy for top rookie, had a goal and an assist in the game. Robert Nilsson, who plays with the Edmonton Oilers, was also among Sweden's scorers.

Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mikael Tellqvist had 15 saves for the winners.

Sweden scored two goals in the game's first 12 minutes, but watched Belarus storm back with three goals. The teams then exchanged goals, with Sweden not taking the lead again until Wallin's goal at 10:32 of the third.

Belarus is being coached by former NHLers Curt Fraser and Glen Hanlon.

"Unfortunately for us, when you score five goals, you'd better win the game," Fraser said.

Later in the day from Quebec City, Switzerland posted a 4-1 win over France, led by former Montreal Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet

Also on Saturday, Minnesota Wild forward Mikko Koivu tallied two goals and added an assist to help Finland to a 5-1 win over Germany in Halifax.

Florida Panthers forward Olli Jokinen registered a goal and an assist for the Finns, who scored twice with the man-advantage and once short handed.

Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom stopped 21-of-22 shots for Finland.

In the other game from Halifax, Robert Petrovicky had a goal and two assists to guide Slovakia to a 5-1 win over Norway.

Canada will play Latvia on Sunday afternoon in Halifax. Dany Heatley scored a hat trick on Friday as the Canadian team debuted with a 5-1 win over Slovenia.

Canada is looking to defend its world title after winning last year's event in Russia. The tournament is being held in Canada for the first time.

With files from the Canadian Press