Patrick Chan of Toronto set the standard in the short program and American Evan Lysacek impressed to set up a compelling finale to the men's competition at the ISU Four Continents figure-skating championships in Vancouver.
Chan, 18, finished off the second-last group of skaters and avoided any major flubs to earn 88.90 points.
Skating to music by violinist Vanessa Mae, the Toronto native set the tone with a triple Axel and followed with a triple flip-triple toe combo. A triple Lutz came not long after, followed by a strong sit spin and good footwork to close the program.
"I took my full advantage to really play the crowd and enjoy it and give myself chills," Chan said. "When I've got chills at the end of the program, I know it was a good program, and I did have chills, so that was good satisfaction."
Chan is looking to rebound on the international scene after a disappointing fifth at figure-skating's Grand Prix final in December in South Korea. He has won Skate Canada and the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris in addition to the national championships.
"The Axel was as good as it was at nationals. I thought the performance was even better here, footwork was sharper, crisper than at nationals, everything felt great," Chan said.
Lysacek trails him with 81.65 points, followed by Takahiko Kozuka of Japan with 76.61.
U.S. national and Grand Prix champion Jeremy Abbott was fourth after falling hard on a triple Lutz.
Vaughn Chipeur of Calgary touched down early in his program on his way to a seventh-place showing, while hometown skater Jeremy Ten was ninth with 66.60 points.
Lysacek, skating to Ravel's Bolero, hit on his triple Axel and flip jumps early and closed his program, the second-last of the night, with a strong display of footwork.
Lysacek will look to avoid the script of the U.S. nationals in January in Cleveland. The Chicago-born skater was in prime position after the short program to win his third title but had a miserable free skate to slip to third place.
"It's been a difficult process for me. I had to do some soul-searching. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to come to this event because emotionally, it was just kind of a down moment in my career to lose my national championship," Lysacek said.
"I think the most important thing I could have done is take that first step. It's not a huge step, but it's standing up and dusting myself off and getting back out there."
Kozuka, the Skate USA champion this season, earned points with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. The Japanese skater had a slight bobble on a triple Axel.
Chipeur, skating to music by guitarist Joe Satriani, recovered from his early fall with a triple Lutz-triple toe combo and a triple flip.
There were 26 skaters in all for the men's competition, which concludes Saturday afternoon on CBCSports.ca (1:30 p.m. ET) and CBC Television (4 p.m. ET).
The world championships begin March 23 in Los Angeles.