Toronto (2-2) needed Ray's heroics to pull out the win over the injury-plagued Bombers (0-4), who lost receiver Terrence Edwards, safety Ian Logan and defensive lineman Brandon Collier to first-half injuries. The defending East Division champions have lost 10 starters — including quarterback Buck Pierce — to various ailments this year.
After missing a wide-open Barnes earlier in the drive, Ray hit the streaking receiver with his first TD catch of the season before 22,485 spectators on a glorious evening with the Rogers Centre roof open. And the Barnes' score woke the crowd from its second-half slumber as the only previous scoring in the final two quarters were three Justin Palardy field goals that put Winnipeg ahead 22-18.
A 45-yard kickoff return by Demond Washington put Winnipeg at its own 52-yard line with 1:55 remaining but quarterback Alex Brink came up a yard short on a third-and-10 run. The Bombers got the ball back at their 14-yard line with 37 seconds remaining, however, Brink couldn't put Palardy in position to force overtime.
The loss tarnished a solid effort from both Palardy — he had five field goals — and Winnipeg's defence. The Bombers will literally limp back to Manitoba and prepare to play their first home game of the season next week against Edmonton.
Both teams were playing on a short turnaround. Winnipeg came in following a 42-10 loss to Edmonton on Friday while Toronto dropped a 36-27 defeat in Hamilton on Saturday. And it showed, especially on offence as neither club was able to mount a consistent attack.
Toronto dodged a huge bullet late in the third when Dustin Doe returned an interception 33 yards to the home side's 15-yard line. But after two incompletions the Bombers had to settle for Palardy's 22-yard field goal that cut the Argos' lead to 18-16 at 11:59.
Cory Boyd and Chad Owens, who lost two fumbles, had Toronto's touchdowns. Newcomer Swayze Waters, replacing injured veteran Noel Prefontaine (hip), booted the converts, a field goal and single.
Brink, starting in place of Pierce (foot), had Winnipeg's touchdown. Palardy also added the convert.
Owens' 37-yard TD catch with 31 seconds in the second quarter staked Toronto to an 18-13 half-time lead. It was sweet redemption for Owens, whose fumble was recovered by Winnipeg's Deon Beasley at the Argos' 48 yard line. But Jordan Younger returned Brink's second interception of the half 43 yards to the visitors' 41-yard line to set up Owens' first receiving touchdown since 2010.
Brink rallied Winnipeg to a 13-11 lead with a one-yard TD run at 10:29 — following a sharp 55-yard completion to Clarance Denmark — then drove the Bombers to the Toronto 23-yard line to set up Palardy's 30-yard field goal at 13:24.
The Bombers' first-half injury plight looked even more desperate when receiver Chris Matthews also went down — he and Ewards had accounted for 562 of Winnipeg's 773 passing yards heading into this contest — but Matthews did return.
That was good news for Winnipeg considering over his last two contests, Matthews had 15 receptions for 302 yards and two TDs.
It was Brink's opening pick of the half that set up Toronto's lone TD of the half. Brink got off a wobbly pass after being hit hard by linebacker Bandon Isaac that middle linebacker Robert McCune intercepted. Ray took advantage, hitting Boyd on a seven-yard touchdown pass at 4:35.
NOTES — Boyd has scored touchdowns in all four of Toronto's games so far this season . . . Pierce has missed 16 of the 40 games Winnipeg has played since he joined the squad in 2010 . . . This game was the Argos' 100th at Rogers Centre. Toronto came in with a 109-89-1 mark . . . . This is the first of three matchups this season between Toronto and Winnipeg . . . This is the last of four straight road games to open the season for Winnipeg, which will host Edmonton on July 26. . . . Toronto's scratches were receiver Maurice Mann, tailback Chad Kackert, linebacker Marcus Ball and defensive tackle Joseph Cohen. Receiver Kurt Adams, fullback Jordan Matechuk, defensive end Rodney Fritz and offensive lineman Chris Kowalczuk didn't dress for Winnipeg.