Boston Bruins

The Bruins needed an epic comeback to beat the Oilers on Tuesday. But in addition, the win was possible because the Bruins shut down Connor McDavid, limiting the Oilers superstar to just two shots on the night. They kept him off the score sheet with a combination of strong team defense and timely saves from Anton Khudobin.

Zdeno Chara led the charge in the superb defensive effort against McDavid. He proved, if only for one night, that he can still stop the league’s very best forwards at 40 years old. Chara was on the ice for 15:16 out of McDavid’s 17:40 total even strength ice time, according to Natural Stat Trick (h/t NESN), and allowed just four scoring chances against 12 for the Bruins when they matched up.

But it took a team effort to silence McDavid on the scoreboard, and it started with the vaunted Layers™. In theory it was a simple plan: limit space for the swift-skating McDavid, force him to the outside, and then limit his passing opportunities. McDavid often found himself skating right into a wall of two or three defenders when dashing into the Bruins’ zone, and Chara was frequently the leader of those blockades.

Bruins Shut Down Connor McDavid: How They Pulled It Off

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers looks to pass by Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on January 5, 2017. The Oilers won 4-3. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers looks to pass by Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on January 5, 2017. The Oilers won 4-3. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Head coach Bruce Cassidy explained to NESN after the game how the Bruins were able to slow down McDavid, who stayed at 69 points through 59 games on the season.

“What we tried to do is keep him to the outside once he got going, and if we could pass him off layer to layer – because I think hes next-to-impossible to eliminate yourself – then eventually we’d run him out of real estate,” said Cassidy. “And then, if we forced him to turn up and took away his options, maybe we’d create some turnovers that way, or kill the plays that way.

“It seemed to work for a lot of the night. He’s always going to have some looks. … At the end of the day I thought it worked out OK for us. He’s a great player. I love watching him play. I’m glad we only have to play him twice, get to watch him on TV. But he’s good for the league.”

McDavid ended up with just two shots on goal, but one of them came very close to finding the back of the net. Fortunately, Khudobin showed up to shut the door at the last moment. The below clip of Khudobin’s huge second-period save showed how the Bruins were able to keep McDavid away from the middle and make him turn back up ice – and even when McDavid found Leon Draisaitl, who passed it back to him for the scoring chance, the Bruins got their clutch save when they needed it.

WATCH: Khudobin’s Clutch Save

Chara’s performance on Tuesday night should inspire further confidence that he can be effective against the NHL’s most dynamic players when called upon. The hope is that he still has fresh legs in April (and beyond), and also that the B’s can build upon this game from what has been a sloppy, inconsistent run on defense in recent games.

But the way that Chara and the Bruins shut down Connor McDavid – arguably the most dangerous player in the league – was a great sign for the stretch run.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.