Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, right, celebrates after his goal as...

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, right, celebrates after his goal as Coyotes defenseman Josh Brown skates away during the third period of an NHL game at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday. Credit: AP/Ross D. Franklin

TEMPE, Ariz. — It had the feel of an exhibition game, played in a 5,026-seat college arena in which Division I Arizona State plays its games and with the Arizona State band playing in the end zone. But this was no exhibition. This was a real NHL game, with a real two points on the line.

And the Rangers needed them.

They got them because, on his 31st birthday, Artemi Panarin was the Rangers’ best player Sunday. He recorded a goal and two assists and Mika Zibanejad scored on the power play at 12:56 of the third period to deliver a 3-2 victory over the pesky Arizona Coyotes at their temporary home, Mullett Arena, on the campus of Arizona State University.

“We knew it was going to be a battle in here,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “They worked hard every shift. And so we’re fortunate to get that power play and get the win.’’

The victory, before a raucous crowd that was mostly composed of Rangers fans, gave the Blueshirts a sweep of their weekend road trip to Dallas and Arizona. The Rangers (5-3-2) had handed the Stars their first home loss on Saturday, and on Sunday, they beat a Coyotes team playing their second game in their new building.

“It was a tied game after two [periods] and we said in the room it’s a big two points for us,’’ forward Alexis Lafreniere said. “And we played as a team in the third. You know, Shesty [goalie Igor Shesterkin] was really good, too. So we found a way to win. That’s what really matters.”

Shesterkin, who had played Saturday afternoon in Dallas in the front end of the back-to-back, returned Sunday, marking the first time he started both ends of a back-to-back since his rookie season of 2019-20.

Gallant said the fact that the game in Dallas was an afternoon game and the game in Arizona was a night game made it reasonable to play Shesterkin in both games.

“He’s got more time,’’ Gallant said before the game. “And he wasn’t real busy in [Saturday’s] game.’’

He didn’t face a high volume of shots Sunday, either. He made 18 saves as the Rangers outshot Arizona 39-20.

In front of a crowd that tilted heavily to the visiting team, the Rangers dominated the first period, holding possession for most of the time in the offensive zone and outshooting the Coyotes 15-7. They also outhit them 13-9, with the most memorable hit the one Sammy Blais delivered to former Rangers defenseman Patrik Nemeth. It put the 6-4, 230-pounder on his back.

But Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram, a 25-year-old playing in his sixth NHL game, kept the Rangers at bay. He was especially good on the Rangers’ lone power play in the period, his best save coming on a jam-in attempt by Chris Kreider on the doorstep.

The Rangers got on the board at 1:31 of the second period when Panarin took a pass from K’Andre Miller in the high slot, skated through the right circle and zipped a cross-crease pass that Lafreniere jammed in for his second goal of the season.

Panarin was sent off for a hooking penalty that gave the Coyotes a power play that ended up with Lawson Crouse scoring on a one-timer to make it 1-1 at 6:45. Arizona took a 2-1 lead at 11:27 when Shesterkin made a save on Clayton Keller, Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren fumbled the rebound and it went to Nick Bjugstad, who beat Shesterkin with a backhander for his first goal of the season.

Panarin got the goal back when he took a pass from Adam Fox, drove into the Coyotes’ zone on the right wing and lifted a surprise, bad-angle shot over Ingram’s left shoulder to tie it at 2-2 at 18:07


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