Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje posted their best score of the season to sit second after the short dance at the Rostelecom Cup, the last of the season's six Grand Prix competitions.
The ice dancers from Waterloo, Ont., scored 64.45 for their rhumba and samba program Friday to trail American world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who scored 69.94.
“Today wasn't our best performance how we do in practice, however it was stronger than at NHK (Japan's Grand Prix event), and stronger technically than at Skate Canada,” Weaver said. “We felt like we had to hold it together in some places and I think that's just a stepping stone building to make this program to become automatic with the performance and the energy level.
“We can take this and be proud of it.”
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia were third (61.69).
In pairs, Brittany Jones of Toronto and Kuris Gaskell of Guelph, Ont., were sixth in the short program in their senior international debut. World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany have the lead.
Reigning world junior champion Andrei Rogozine of Richmond Hill, Ont., was seventh after the men's short program in his first senior international event. He landed a triple flip-triple toe but stepped out of his triple Axel.
Jeremy Abbott of the U.S. is the leader.
Amelie Lacoste of Delson, Que., is ninth after the women's short program. Mao Asada of Japan skated a clean short program to lead by less than half a point over Alena Leonova.
Both Asada, a two-time world champion, and Leonova are coming back from mediocre seasons last year.
Asada, skating to Rimsky-Korsakov's “Sheherazade,” evoked the music's changing moods with her movements, appearing alternately relaxed and passionate. One of the few women skaters able to perform a triple Axel, she elected for only a double in the short program, but did it with assurance and also added a triple flip-double loop combination.
“I did everything I intended to do,” Asada said.
Asada already has a silver from this year's NHK Trophy so a medal in Moscow would put her in the Grand Prix Final.
Leonova appeared revitalized after last year's disappointing Grand Prix event in Moscow, when she finished in ninth place. Her exuberant pirate-themed program was highlighted by an opening pair of triple toe loops.
Leonova credited her new coach Nikolai Morozov for her revival.
“With my new coach, my practices are much more adaptable,” she said.
There wasn't a clean quad among the top men. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who sits second, put a hand down on his, while Abbott and third-place Czech Michal Brezina didn't try one. Brandon Mroz of the United States, who two weeks ago became the first skater to land a quad Lutz in international competition, fell on his attempt to repeat the feat in Moscow and ended the day in sixth place.
Abbott's program to swing music featured four solid triples, a very fast and tight sit spin and an infectious exuberance.
“I really think it was the most fun I've had in a very, very long time, maybe ever,” he said.
Brezina said he and his coach decided his quad still wasn't reliable and “I can you promise you the short's going to be like this until the quad gets better.”
Savchenko and Szolkowy shone throughout their program with a high opening throw triple flip and a very low death spiral. They're aiming to raise the drama with a throw triple Axel, but not quite yet.
“We have been working on it at home, but we had no chance to do a run-through,” Savchenko said.
World junior champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia managed to end the day in third place in the women's event despite an imperfect opening triple Lutz and doubling a planned triple toe loop. She is more than six points behind the leaders.