Patrick Chan's artistry compensated for popping the back end of the his opening jump combination and put Canada's two-time world champion well into the lead Friday after the short program at the Rostelecom Cup.
Canada's Olympic and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir lead after the short dance.
American Gracie Gold narrowly heads the women's field.
Chan, who finished second at Skate Canada International two weeks ago, was nearly nine points ahead of his nearest rival, despite turning a planned triple after his initial quad toe into a single. The 21-year-old from Toronto blamed the mistake on nerves, saying "I always feel shaky" when skating last.
"The quad is the jump that really dictates the rest of the program, he said. "But I actually felt a little shaky going into it today and not as relaxed as I was in practice. I was a little off balance going into it."
Chan said his program was an improvement over Skate Canada, which marked his first major international loss in nearly two years.
"My short program felt really good," said Chan. "At Skate Canada there was something missing and it just wasn't solid. I got right back into work on it after that event and everything today, my Lutz, Axel and most importantly the quad, were on."
In ice dancing, Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., changed the lift that gave them trouble at Skate Canada.
"It was overall much stronger than at Skate Canada," Virtue said. "We improved a lot of areas at the technical level and produced a program which reflected how we had been doing it in training. We are certainly going to keep working on creating something different with our lift for later in the season."
Nicole Orford of Burnaby, B.C., and Thomas Williams of Vancouver are seventh.
Russia's Konstantin Menshov was second in the men's short program after an unexpectedly strong performance. Menshov, who at age 29 has never won a Grand Prix medal, was flawed only by a wobbly triple Axel landing and a lacklustre triple Lutz. He slightly outpointed Chan technically, but his program component score was well below.
Another veteran fared far worse. Johnny Weir's return to major international competition after a two-season hiatus saw almost nothing go right, except for the loud welcome he got from Russian fans who love his flamboyance and his affection for Russia. He finished in a distant last place.
Gold started the day as the lowest-ranked skater in the women's event but ended on top after a graceful and assured short program. But she has less than a two-point lead over the next two contenders for medals, Kiira Korpi of Finland and American Agnes Zawadzki.
Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov took a commanding lead in the pairs, followed by compatriots Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov and Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin.
Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Virden, Man., are fourth.
Gold, who placed seventh in Skate Canada, showed no signs of uncertainty in her short skate to "Hernando's Hideaway," knocking off an opening triple flip-triple toe loop, a triple Lutz and a double Axel with aplomb.
"Skate Canada was my first Grand Prix and only my third international competition, really, and I got very nervous before the competition and put a lot of pressure on myself and I was not able to skate like I did in all of the practices, but here I just remembered to ... take a deep breath," she said.
The Russian ice dancing team of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov was in second place Friday, followed by fellow Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin.