New Zealand's defence of the Azlan Shah men's hockey title got off to an exciting, if not entirely satisfactory start in Ipoh, Malaysia as they were held to a 3-3 draw by the hosts last night.

Indeed, the eighth-ranked Black Sticks needed a goal five minutes from the end off the last of a stunning passage of six successive penalty corners to secure the draw.

In an entertaining match, New Zealand got what they wanted in terms of a tough, competitive match before a noisy crowd but they'd be disappointed not to take maximum points.

''Overall it was a pretty good performance from us," New Zealand coach Colin Batch said.

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"We operated really well in the midfield throughout the game and created a number of opportunities in the attacking circle.

"The guys showed maturity to come back from behind twice, and we took control late in the fourth quarter but weren't able to score a winning goal."

New Zealand had beaten 13th-ranked Malaysia 2-1 in a home international series last month and the Malaysians pace and quick stick work impressed.

That said, two-time title winners New Zealand had the majority of possession and more scoring opportunities.

They unexpectedly fell behind just before the end of the first quarter when Firhan Ashari scored from close range against the run of play, after goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex had blocked his initial attempt but couldn't stop the follow up.

However there had been encouraging signs. Striker Stephen Jenness had struck a post and Malaysia's goalkeeper Hafizuddin had pulled off a couple of smart saves.

New Zealand equalised in the 22nd minute with a fine individual goal by attacker Nick Wilson. Picking the ball up wide on the left, he beat three defenders before flicking the ball inside Hafizuddin's near post.

He then celebrated his 150th international with a second goal, after good inter-passing with Shay Neal, his bouncing shot evading Hafizuddin.

One area Batch would have been unimpressed with was his team's ineffectiveness at the penalty corner. Kane Russell and Nic Woods were the primary shooters and a mix of good defensive work and inaccurate shooting threatened to cost New Zealand dearly.

Malaysia equalized a minute before three-quarter time when captain Razie Rahim scored from a penalty corner shot which took a deflection, and 12 minutes from the end the hosts were ahead.

From a planned move at a penalty corner, Rahim shaped to shoot but held his shot and laid on the chance for Shahril Saabah who scored with a sharp shot.

Then followed the hectic penalty corner drama as New Zealand received six penalty corner opportunities in succession, captain Simon Child finally getting the equalizing goal, deflecting a Russell drive into the net. It had been New Zealand's 11th PC of the match.

New Zealand play 14th-ranked Canada in their second game on Thursday night (NZT).

In other opening day results, the Canadians went down 3-1 to No 10 Pakistan, while India, ranked seventh, beat No 16 Japan 2-1.

World No 1 Australia start their campaign against India tonight.